There was another, more immediate question on the minds of some who attended a news conference Tuesday to announce a donation of Busted Plug Plaza to the city of Columbia.
What will happen to Tunnelvision, the large mural artist Blue Sky painted on the AgFirst Farm Credit Bank building that faces the parking lot on Taylor Street where Busted Plug has stood for more than a decade?
The 50-by-75-foot mural, painted in 1975, presents the illusion of looking through a tunnel carved from rock at a descending sun in the distance. As far as local public art, nothing has received the international acclaim that Tunnelvision has.
Responding to a question about the citys commitment to protect the mural, Councilman Moe Baddourah said there were no plans for Tunnelvision.
Theres no reason why it shouldnt stay where it is, Baddourah added. As of now, like I said, I think were all committed to keep the Tunnelvision where it is right now.
Local art observers and Blue Sky fear that when AgFirst sells the property, Tunnelvision will be obscured by a structure built on the prime downtown lot. Or worse, it could be knocked down.
We will eventually list the property for sale, said Charl Butler, AgFirsts chief financial officer. The intention would be to market the property next year and hopefully have it sold by the time we move.
Butler, also an AgFirst senior vice president, presented a scenario.
If we had two buyers, one was committed to preserving the art and the other was committed to tearing down the building and replacing it with something else, wed do our best to sell it to the one that was committed to keeping the building and the artwork intact, he said.
Beyond that, obviously were a business. I cant commit to you or anybody else that well give the building away in order to protect the art or the building itself, but well certainly take that into consideration.
At the afternoon news conference held in the shadow of Busted Plug, the city announced it would solicit relocation ideas from the public. Thoughts can be shared on Twitter using the hash tag #movetheplug or on the One Columbia Facebook page.
The 40-foot concrete, steel and aluminum sculpture that weighs 675,000 pounds is in a parking lot at Taylor and Marion streets owned by AgFirst. The bank is donating the fire hydrant, designed at an angle to suggest a car has slammed into it, to the city. The company, which provides services and loans to other financiers who loan directly to farmers, also will donate $25,000 to relocate the art.
The deal with the city comes as AgFirst prepares to move into its new headquarters on Main Street next year. Putting Busted Plug at the new site the former Bank of America building isnt feasible, an AgFirst spokeswoman told The State last week.
Mayor Steve Benjamin referred to Busted Plug as an iconic piece of our citys cultural landscape. He said the relocation initiative is a celebration of the spirit of public art.
Standing in front of firefighters and other city officials, Baddourah and Butler also made remarks. Blue Skys absence was conspicuous, though Baddourah said Blue Sky was involved in relocation talks.
This is typical of Blue, said his wife, Lynn Sky, who joined the speakers in front a bank of cameras underneath a white tent. I think he just wants it to be appreciated. As an artist, he thinks putting it in the right spot is the art.
Reach Taylor at (803) 771-8362.