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By Scott Sullivan


Death by Fun

There’s original sin and ones we make up. Woe be to those who indulge in pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed or sloth. (If you can do all at once, count me in on the fun as well.)

Endangering children for money ranks right down there. A few Facebook posters accused us of that last week for using a photo of a girl climbing a public sculpture on this year’s Visitors’ Guide cover.

OMG! A kid having fun on a sculpture made by former Saugatuck City Council member Cynthia McKean to be interactive! Cynthia, whose reaction appears nearby, says as much and she loves the photo. The Brinks truck has yet to back up to our loading dock, since we give away these Guides free. LMAO.

I spend little time on Facebook. Good stuff is on there and I love how it’s instant, but the latter can be a problem. People get immediate gratification by spouting off without first informing themselves. There is too much of little substance for me to wade through.

Since these posts concerned me, I read them:

“Who’s idea was it to use this photo … Talk about promoting a future lawsuit!!!”

“Plus, it’s disrespectful to the artist and benefactor who paid for this wonderful sculpture.”

“People should respect art, not climb on it.”

“Odds are it wasn’t purposeful. Not sure if they staged it or if this was a shot they picked up. Either way, I emailed them to consider replacing this.”

I don’t know what “they” or “them” this poster refers to. He speculates that “the business association” was behind it. Page 3 of the Guide notes it is published and produced by The Commercial Record, but no one at our office received such an email.

“Shame … shame … shame,” wrote another poster. “I would bet $1,000 that Cynthia McKean is not very pleased either. SHAME …”

I invite this expert on shame to read Cynthia’s statement, then make out his check to Child Protective Services as a gift from all.

Not all posters were condemning.

“Oh for God’s sake. Let kids be kids.”

“Kids climb on it every year. Gosh, no fun allowed anymore.”

“Not everyone has their lawyer on speed dial. Boomers (are) wrapping their kids in bubble wrap and suing when it pops. If this thing didn’t fall down when I climbed it a decade ago, it’s probably not going to now. And if it does, the parents can pay to repair it. Life has risks sometime.”

One poster took what must have been 30 seconds to go to the artist’s website. There Cynthia states, “If people walk around, touch and occasionally climb my sculpture, (‘Family of) Man’ can be experienced at picturesque Coghlin Park on the edge of Kalamazoo Lake.”

At last I responded: “Through the years I have taken many pictures of kids climbing on Cynthia’s sculpture. These were not ‘staged,’ ‘picked up’ or anything of the like. She has another bright-colored steel sculpture on the Douglas Elementary School lawn.

“That said, sure a child could fall off of these. This just in: also off monkey bars in a public playground, a sled, walking on a sidewalk …

“If you are really concerned, lobby the city to sign and cordon off this sculpture, as Douglas did with the sculpture of kids that’s in Beery Field, to prevent them from climbing on it.”

When Cynthia called, we agreed that these critics meant well and there are worse things than having a dialog about public art’s role in our “Art Coast” cities.

If hypocrisy is a sin, I’m a prime practitioner. My first reaction was to condemn posters for condemning me. That’s why I didn’t reply at first. When I cooled down, I realized they were just questioning an action I was involved in. That’s fair game. They appreciate Cynthia’s art — me too — and don’t want kids hurt. Me neither.

Children will always find ways to hurt themselves. Grown-ups too. Play safe, but know too life happens. I don’t feel this gentle, iconic sculpture is an attractive nuisance, but if you do, lobby the city to make it safer. Coghlin is their — even though it is all of our — public park.

If, after years of kids having fun climbing on this sculpture, seeing this picture inspires you to end this practice, it will have achieved a purpose. Go for it, I say.