Sir: You know what really burns me up? Phosphorus! Ha ha! They tell me it’s always good to set the tone with a little humor. But anyway, I’m really disgusted with this plague that has descended on our city. And from what I hear, other cities are having the same problem. I probably don‘t have to say this, but I’m talking about public sculpture.

Do you have any idea how inconvenient public sculpture is? First of all, it’s just in the way wherever it goes. I mean, I’m walking through the park, and suddenly there’s this statue of some guy who was a general in the Spanish-American War. I don’t even think there was such a war. I think they made it up just so they could put up a statue of some guy in a fancy uniform, who was probably really a bellhop at the William Penn.

And then there’s the vermin question. Public sculpture attracts pigeons. It’s like their number-one host. How can we expect to clean up this city if there are known pigeon attractors scattered around all the most frequented squares and street corners? It’s like an open invitation to aerial rats. And then, of course, there are rat rats. Pigeons on top of the sculptures and rats under them. Especially if it’s one of those modern sculptures with all the tubes and stuff.

And then it’s such a nightmare if you have to get rid of one, like I do all the time when I’m trying to build a new apartment block in a neighborhood that needs a few more half-million-dollar condos. I mean, all the crazies come out of the woodwork and act like they care about this artist whose name nobody has ever heard of, and who didn’t even bother to give his work a title, like he just knocked it out at 4:57 on a Friday afternoon, and they say, “Oh no, you can’t get rid of Untitled Number 24! It’s a masterpiece by that guy, you know, the same one who did Untitled Number 23! He has his own Wikipedia article!” And they write to city council and file for injunctions and make life impossible, and you can’t have it hauled away and get the scrap money out of it, and you just have to back a bulldozer over it when nobody’s looking.

So here’s what I think we should do about public sculpture. I think we should round up all the public sculptures in the city and haul them to McKeesport, which has whole blocks of vacant lots that would probably be improved by a few pigeons pooping in them. Then people who inexplicably like those things can go to McKeesport and go all “Ooh! Look at the sculpture!” and maybe buy gas while they’re there and double the city’s tax revenue. You could make it a tourist attraction. Call it “City of Sculpture” and maybe make it a UNESCO World Heritage Site, if it isn’t already on the list as City of Vacant Lots.

Now, I know this is absurd, but in some cities there are rules that say you have to set aside a certain percentage of the budget in a new construction project for art. This is what leads to a lot of the public-sculpture infestations. See, people think that, if they have to pay for art, it’s going to take up space, and they’re just resigned to it. But I’ve thought about this, and I think I know the way around it. We just take the art money and hand it to an artist and say, “Here’s a bunch of money. This should set you up for the next three years. Now go get a tattoo.” That way the artist has got some money, and there’s art somewhere, but it’s not in the way, unless the artist is actually standing right there, in which case we can have him arrested for loitering, which you can’t do with a statue, because believe me I’ve tried and the police were no use at all.

So, you see, I’ve identified the problem and I’ve come up with workable solutions. I’d even be willing to donate my time to the city to help identify and eliminate public sculptures wherever they’re in the way of progress. I mention that because I called the mayor’s 311 hotline, but they acted like I was some sort of crazy person, so I’m putting my offer down in print where everybody can see it.

Phyllis Stein,
Stein & Co. Management and Development