Cheeky to Eeky: Where Public Art Went Wrong

Declared unacceptable: A huge yellow sign spelling out “United States” on the Canada-facing facade of the new border station in Massena, N.Y., is being dismantled because of security concerns.

After years of working closely with the architects, the New York firm of Smith-Miller & Hawkinson, the Customs and Border Patrol (part of DHS) signed off on the final version of a new border-crossing station in northeastern New York State in 2007. Yet three weeks ago, less than a month after the station opened, workers began prying the big yellow letters off the building’s facade on orders from CBP. “There were security concerns,” said Kelly Ivahnenko, a spokeswoman for CBP. “The sign could be a huge target and attract undue attention. Anything that would place our officers at risk we need to avoid.”

I kind of agree. However I don’t think CBP was necessarily balking at the idea that public art would attract undue attention; it was the choice of the huge neon letters that caused the controversy. The big yellow letters of welcome seem almost Disneyland-esqe; not quite the image that a security agency wants to promote. Save that for the welcome center with their big, showy gardens of flowers.

I love the idea; it was the execution that went haywire!


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