Fans of public art in Philadelphia will recall that the Glob — not to be confused with the subject of a horror movie set in the suburb of Phoenixville — is the ambivalent nickname given to the droplet of public sculpture beneath Claes Oldenburg’s “Paint Torch” at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. It also has become the site of showdowns between guards and various skateboarders and bike riders, a PAFA rep said Tuesday — even after PAFA spent $10,000 to re-orient the Glob to a less inviting position: “The riders would get violent and threaten security officers when they were asked not to ride on the Glob.”
The occasion for airing such gripes was a City Council committee hearing on a bill that would hike punishments for riding over public art and memorials up to a maximum $2,000 in fines and 90 days in jail. Councilman David Oh introduced the bill after skaters damaged the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
But Josh Nims, an advocate for skateboarders, said $2,000 seemed steep. “Skateboarding in the urban environment isn’t necessarily a malicious act,” he said. “You’re not always conscious of what that piece of granite on the sidewalk means.”
Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell took it a step further, calling the $2,000 fine “another tax.” The current maximum penalty is $300, which apparently isn’t a sufficient deterrent — though councilmembers admitted that may be mostly because current laws aren’t enforced. Blackwell was even less pleased with the associated jail time: “To say you’re not going to arrest children does not in any way alleviate any of my concerns. It’s insulting.” The bill passed out of committee over her objections — and in spite of her comments that Council does, after all, have larger matters to attend to. “This is not how we should spend our time.”