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Friday, Jan 07, 2011 - Canvassed | Art & culture

San Diego still doesn't have a proper tribute to King

What's going on with the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Artwork?

By Kinsee Morlan
With the upcoming annual Multicultural Festival held on the Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade in Downtown San Diego, now is as good a time as any to check in on the status of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Artwork, a public-art project that is considered by many in the community to be the first proper tribute to King in San Diego.

Among other issues with the artist-selection process for the  project, the winning team—led by Philip Matzigkeit and Judy Baca—was selected despite their proposal being $100,000 over budget. I wrote about his back in 2006, and also looked into the history of San Diego and its somewhat abysmal record of commemorating King.

I still get emails from some of the artists who were part of other finalist teams who didn't think it was fair that an over-budget project ended up winning the bid. They want to know the status of the project and if the extra funds have been secured. 

I, too, want to know what's going on, but when I email the city's Commission for Arts & Culture, I get the same response: "We have no updates on the Public Art Program or the MLK project to report at this time."  On the public-art program page, it simply lists the project's status as, "Art design in progress."

Caltrans senior landscape architect, Stephen Alvarez says the grant money for the project has been extended well beyond its original expiration dates.

"The grant is still there," says Alvares, "but it's in the ballpark of the city right now."

Alvares says the grant will again be up for review in June, 2011, at which time he says it could be extended again as long as the city says they still plan on completing the project.

So, the question remains. When will Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Artwork be built? When will the patch of ice plant between Home and Euclid avenues along the south side of the Martin Luther King Jr. Freeway be replaced by an artistic tribute to King?

 
 
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