By Lisa Spector, Juilliard Graduate, Canine Music Expert, and co-creator of Through a Dog’s Ear.
In 1977, artist Tom Otterness adopted a puppy from a shelter. But, he wasn’t planning on rescuing the dog and providing her with a forever home, instead he tied her to a fence post and shot and killed the dog with a gun in public for the “purpose of art”. The murder was turned into a film called “Shot Dog Film”. In the years since, he has enjoyed a very lucrative career as an artist and frequently is commissioned to create sculptors for public spaces. Recently, the city of San Francisco commissioned him for two projects totaling nearly 1.4 million dollars.
The commissions involved creating 59 bronze sculptures in the Moscone Center for the Central Subway Project. The city had planned to pay him $750,000 for that project. Secondly, he was contracted to create a sculpture for the San Francisco General Hospital for $700,000.
But, we love our dogs in San Francisco and consider them to be part of our families. When a San Francisco Examiner reporter recently discovered Tom Otterness’ 1977 dog shooting episode, San Francisco residents called for the termination of Otterness’ contracts. Last week, half of their mission was accomplished. The city’s Arts Commission canceled the contract for the subway sculptures. But, the art piece for the hospital is still moving forward. Half of the $700,000 has already been paid to Otterness and the city would lose the remaining $365,750 if they terminated the contract now.
I’m sure they have learned their lesson about not doing thorough background checks on commissioned artists. And personally, I’d rather see them eat that mistake than pay the remaining amount to Otterness. But, I think other alternatives could present themselves.
According to a recent San Francisco Examiner article, Otterness has been speaking with the director of Animal Care and Control about how to earn community forgiveness. Is he really sorry for his 1977 dog shooting? In searching online, I can’t find any reports of him volunteering community service time to help animals. And I haven’t read about him donating money to non-profit animal organizations. Is he just paying lip service so that he continues to earn astronomical fees to create art work in which he shows alligators eating children?
How about if he took all of his $700,000 earnings from the San Francisco General Hospital commission and donated it to the San Francisco SPCA and other San Francisco non-profit animal organization that actually help animals in need? What do you think? Should he still be allowed to create art for the San Francisco General Hospital for his remaining fee of $365,750? Thanks for sharing your thoughts in a comment below.
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