Four months after the mysterious appearance of red goats spray-painted on planters in Uptown Kingston sparked a spirited debate about the line between art and vandalism, a city commission is exploring options to decorate the much-maligned street furnishings, including bringing back the now-iconic red goats.
The white concrete planters were installed last year as part of the $1.6 million restoration of the Pike Plan canopy. The planters, which replaced deteriorated brick-and-bluestone ones, immediately drew the ire of some Uptown merchants and residents who said they were too big, out of place in a historic district and served as natural magnets for graffiti. The red goat incident, in which 33 goats appeared on 11 of the planters last October, both highlighted the planters’ vulnerability to vandalism and, for some, demonstrated their potential as canvasses for art. Two weeks after the goats appeared, Uptown artists Maggie Salesman and Geddes Paulsen were arrested after police discovered video which allegedly showed them spray-painting the goats onto the planters. Both face a felony charge of criminal mischief. The goats, meanwhile, were removed by the Pike Plan contractor at a cost of about $5,000. But the ruminants’ removal did not quell concern over the appearance of the planters, some of which have been tagged by unknown graffitists.
“Everybody agrees that something needs to be done with them,” said Dominic Vanacore, an Uptown business owner who sits on the Pike Plan Commission, which oversees maintenance and improvements to the canopies and streetscape on North Front and Wall streets. “Because right now, they’re an eyesore.”
Mayor at meeting
On Tuesday, Feb. 7 at a meeting attended by Mayor Shayne Gallo, the commission voted to appoint a three-member panel to study the potential for dressing up the planters with artwork. Among those appointed to the panel was art gallery owner Kevin Paulsen, a founder of the O-Positive art festival, father of Geddes Paulsen and one of the staunchest defenders of the red goats as art rather than vandalism. Paulsen said that he hoped the goats would return. Paulsen noted that the red goats had become a sort of informal mascot for Uptown Kingston, spawning window signs, a Facebook page and imitators in New York City and elsewhere.
Slideshow image: In this pic from last year, a man covers up the red goats just prior to the official Pike Plan dedication ceremony. (Photo by Dan Barton)