A Tubular Message
(Printed in The Scranton Times on 8/19/94.)

Recent articles, editorials, and letters in your paper have shown a range of opinions about the proposed tubes over the Mulberry Street bridge. There seems to be a controversy about spending $2.3 million on a project with little practical, and questionable artistic value.

A dictionary definition of art is "the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects." Obviously, the design of the tubes required at least some inspired imagination, and the erection of the tubes would require a variety of skills. But would the finished product have any aesthetic value? Could it be classified as art? What message would passersby get?

These and other questions about art have been debated ever since an imaginative caveman scratched out the first drawing of a saber-tooth tiger on some cave wall. Some of his associates approved; some disapproved; most of them probably didn't care. Beauty is a nebulous quality that defies quantification.

In answer to my own questions about the aesthetic or artistic value of the tubes, I doubt that they will win any awards - unless some of the $2.3 million is set aside to buy a few. Maybe a welding journal, or the tube manufacturer could be cajoled into awarding something.

Speculation about the message of the current design to viewers could get interesting. A few possibilities: Scranton is a tubular town; Scranton must be rich because they couldn't find anything better to spend $2.3 million on; Scranton's art council must be really gullible; the bridge is heated with gas or coal; or Scranton recycles its mine shaft liners. There are probably positive messages, but I won't speculate because this is a negative letter.

I won't criticize without making a few suggestions. Spend the money on something useful: give the city a pizza party; pave some streets; add some police; lower taxes. However, if you're intent on spending the money to enhance the bridge, then cover each tube with a giant condom. The message: Scranton promotes safe sex. Be creative.

John L. Ferri

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