Money for a bunny?

My last dispatch spotlighted the “demon” mustang at the Denver International Airport. Well, it turns out Denverites aren’t the only ones upset about large public-art animals. I’ve since learned that some folks in Sacramento are hoppin’ mad about a red rabbit.

In October, sculptor Lawrence Argent was commissioned to create a 52-foot fiberglass hare diving into a stone suitcase for the California capital’s new airport terminal. (The above image is a computer rendering.) A public outcry followed over the $800,000 price tag.

Argent says he understands why people in Sacramento are fuming when the state is in financial ruins and unemployment is high. But by county ordinance, a percentage of the construction cost of government buildings must be used for public art.

Nonetheless, critics say the bunny money should go for things like hiring more cops. And one local asks, “Why a rabbit?” There aren’t rabbits in Sacramento, he grouses, but why not a sculpture about something else the city is famous for, say, “government overspending on pointless projects.”

Argent says he chose the rabbit because it’s a creature that can add humor to a place where people are fraught with anxiety over flying, delays and security lines. For him, the sculpture is already a success. “At least people are thinking and art has entered their consciousness,” he says. The philosophical Argent lived through public discourse when he created a giant bear for the Denver Convention Center. After it was installed, he says, the architect paid him the ultimate compliment: “You humanized the building.”

The Sacramento Bee has leapt to Argent’s side, saying great public art costs money, and great public art makes great cities—think Chicago and New York. What’s your take on the money for the bunny?

—Bonnie Gangelhoff

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