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What Is the Role of Public Art?

The "Unconditional Surrender" sculpture displayed by the Port of San Diego has generated a great deal of debate about public art in San Diego. The port's public art director, its art committee chairm

What Is the Role of Public Art?

Tom Fudge: The name of the sculpture is Unconditional Surrender . It stands 25-feet-tall on a point of land, across from the Aircraft Carrier Midway, along San Diego Bay. It's a painted sculpture that mimics a famous photograph of a sailor and a nurse kissing in Times Square on Victory in Japan Day. And art critic Robert Pincus thinks it's God-awful.

Pincus is a critic, and criticizing art is what he does. But his article about the sculpture in the Union-Tribune raised a host of issues about the installation of public art. It also leads to a barrage of letters to the editor both for and against the art work, which is on loan to the Port Authority. 


Today, we're going to ask who gets to choose public art.


  • Catherine Sass, public art director for the Port of San Diego.
  • Anthony Block, chairman of the Port of San Diego's Public Art Committee.
  • Robert Pincus, art critic for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

(Photo: Larger-than-life sculpture "Unconditional Surrender" stands at the edge of the San Diego Bay, Angela Carone/KPBS )

End Music:
  Where It's At by Jimmy McGriff, from the album Greatest Hits (1997)