Public art in Boynton Beach triggers MAGA uprising over artist's unrelated views on Trump

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Editor's note: this article was originally published in August 2023.

Few things are sillier than government officials who self-deputize themselves as art critics.

That’s what’s happening in Boynton Beach these days, with the city commission going nuclear over a large public sculpture previously OKed by the city’s own Art Advisory Board.

The 15-foot-tall ceramic sculpture entitled “Harmony” is the public-art piece that WXEL South Florida PBS has commissioned to go in the garden of its new cultural arts center on Congress Avenue.

It’s the work of renowned Seattle-based artist Patti Warashina, who three years ago was awarded the Smithsonian’s Visionary Artist Award, which is given to artists who “who have risen to the pinnacle of sculptural arts and design” and have achieved “exceptional artistry.”

The “Harmony” sculpture has a harlequin figure sitting atop a globe. In the figure’s up-stretched arms is a conductor’s baton in the right hand and a musical eighth-note in the left.

It seems like a fitting sculpture to rise outside a broadcasting company. And it’s not paid for by taxpayers.

Artist Patti Warashina's sculpture "Harmony" has been selected by WXEL South Florida PBS to be part of the garden at its new cultural arts center in Boynton Beach
Artist Patti Warashina's sculpture "Harmony" has been selected by WXEL South Florida PBS to be part of the garden at its new cultural arts center in Boynton Beach

Why was the 'Harmony' sculpture created?

The sculpture is the result of a city ordinance that requires developers of large projects to include a public art installation as an element of their new design.

The city’s Art Advisory Board, formed 17 years ago, is a body of local artists and experts that makes sure that the art installations selected by new developments are worthy as art. And this one clearly is.

So what’s the big deal? In a word: Trump.

Former president Donald Trump has nothing to do with this sculpture but Warashina has done other work that mocks the former president. In one of her sculptures, Trump holds a Vladimir Putin mask.

Artist Patti Warashina sculpture that depicts her view of former president Donald Trump
Artist Patti Warashina sculpture that depicts her view of former president Donald Trump

This has made the WXEL statue a MAGA target, inflaming a small but vocal group of local Trump election-deniers, who usually gather Thursdays on street corners, to pack the normally empty art advisory board meeting earlier this month and to dominate last week’s public comments portion of the city commission meeting.

They were led by Cindy Falco-DiCorrado, a familiar denizen of this swamp. For those keeping score at home, she was the one in the “Trump Girl” shirt who complained to county commissioners a few years ago about the COVID “planned-demic” and was later arrested at an Einstein Bros. Bagels shop in suburban Boca Raton for refusing to wear a mask.

Closer to home, she relinquished her seat on the advisory board to the Boynton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency in 2017 after posting on social media how slavery was a blessing that unified Black families.

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“Yes, it was hard but it helped people in the long run,” she wrote.

Now, she’s back, finding an opportunity to make the sculpture a new MAGA target and rallying point.

“Fifteen feet tall with no penis and no vagina and boobs cut off and all this innuendo of binary,” she told commissioners. “This has got to stop. The agenda of social justice is what this is all about.”

Apparently, the harmless looking sculpture is all about pedophilia and luring kids from the nearby elementary school, or corrupting family values. That’s the gist of their nonsense.

Cindy Falco DiCorrado is one of Palm Beach County's most visible Trump supporters
Cindy Falco DiCorrado is one of Palm Beach County's most visible Trump supporters

“It’s not illegal to be L or B or G or T or Q,” said speaker Eric Pardi. “So, why are they forcing it? In California they say if you do not submit your children to the LGBTQ crap, they will take your children away from you.”

Yikes. And the foamy-mouth alarm doesn't end there.

Jackie Dobbins, who is also part of the group that spends Thursdays waving Trump signs to passing traffic, drew a line from WXEL to “the Rothschilds,” and told commissioners she feared that the sculpture was another sign that Boynton Beach was turning to Devil worship.

“I just want to know, are we becoming Satanic now?” she asked commissioners. “Did we throw the beach away to become Lucifer’s playground? Because that statue is satanic.

“Why doesn’t all the art have to do with fishing and beaches instead of 666 and Black Lives Matter fists?” she asked.

She said she had photographic proof that even the city’s park benches were delivering Satanic messages.

“The benches that the children sit on, and they don’t even know that when the sun goes through, it shows the devil’s face on the ground,” Dobbins said.

Instead of pushing back on all this crazy, or at least defending its own art board in making a selection of a sculpture that would be worthy by any objective standard, most city commissioners were more eager to make sure they don’t have to face any future MAGA uprisings over art.

“I’m not a big art guy,” said city vice mayor Thomas Turkin, a first-term Republican addition to the commission. “I dug into this artist. There’s a distaste for former presidents.”

Turkin pushed his colleagues to rewrite the art advisory board ordinance to require that all art-in-public-places projects be given to local artists and be restricted in theme to either family or fishing.

Boynton Beach vice mayor Thomas Turkin was elected in 2022 to his seat on the Boynton Beach City Commission
Boynton Beach vice mayor Thomas Turkin was elected in 2022 to his seat on the Boynton Beach City Commission

And that the city, which for the past 17 years had been using public art guidelines developed by Seattle, should abandon those standards of merit because … well, they came from Seattle.

Artifa!

“It looks very suspicious if I see Seattle guidelines and a Seattle artist,” Turkin said. “Why are we curating on the West Coast?

“Keep that stuff over there,” he said. “We need to be focused on Boynton Beach and what the community wants.”

Or at least what a few dozen hyper-imaginative MAGA performance artists want. The only city commissioner who seemed to have any sense of the farce enfolding was Aimee Kelley.

“Part of art is that it brings up conversation and it’s interesting,” Kelley told her colleagues. “But if we force everyone to only create family art and fishing art, then we’re looking at a lot of sailfish.”

Turkin disagreed.

“That doesn’t just mean sailfish,” he said. “There’s hundreds of species of fish. There’s starfish, coral reefs and all sorts of stuff.”

Like I said, few things are sillier than government officials who self-deputize themselves as art critics.

Palm Beach Post columnist Frank Cerabino
Palm Beach Post columnist Frank Cerabino

Frank Cerabino is a columnist at The Palm Beach Post, a part of the USA TODAY Florida Network.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Selecting public-art piece in Boynton Beach gets down to Trump views