Unhappy Landings

Irwin describes Judy as "an entrepreneur and a builder in a civil servant's job," and eventually that contradiction did him in. After the 1988 county election, even Judy's widely acknowledged competence as a manager couldn't save him from the age of accountability ushered in by a new Metro-Dade Commission, which wanted answers to questions about some land deals and about his relationship with an arms dealer known as the "Merchant of Death." When the questions kept coming, Judy said the hell with it. Abandoning his dream of an airport as beautiful as it was profitable, he wrote out his resignation, took one last walk through the automatic doors marked Exit Only, and never looked back.

But for a couple of years he and Irwin came together like yin and yang to form a perfect circle of intent. With Irwin as his guru, Judy listened and learned the principle of "Art = Enrichment," and came to believe, to share a sense of the vision. As airport director he had made decisons, he'd made money, and he'd made MIA work. Now, he saw, he could make history. "I knew we were on the verge of something that would sweep the world," Judy says now. "It was a new concept of presenting culture, much like the ancient Greeks."

But it wasn't to be. Today Judy is in Coconut Grove, running his own consulting business, trying mightily to keep regrets from exploding into bitterness. Trasobares is in Little Havana, making his own art. And Irwin is back in California, where from his harborview home in San Diego he is working on two 55-foot towers for Chicago's Loop; figuring out how to move 100 aspen trees to the entrance of the 1992 Winter Olympics site in Albertville, France; and trying to improve the flow patterns of tourists who visit Frank Lloyd Wright's house, Fallingwater, in Pennsylvania. But he often thinks of Miami. "I don't know what the hell happened, really," he muses. "Ambitious, yes; there was a moment...."

But that moment seems to have passed, and with it MIA's chance for transcendence. Art in Public Places' current director, Vivian Donnell Rodriguez, says there is a possibility that the Irwin plan could be implemented, at least in some scaled-down version. But Irwin doubts that. He recalls one of his last presentations to airport staffers, a time when he was discussing how the short-term parking garage could be knocked down and the land flooded in order to make a subtropical swamp in the proposed central park. Before he could finish, Irwin says, he was interrupted by Frederick Elder, who at the time was Judy's assistant in charge of parking. Says Irwin: "He stopped me in what I was doing and said, `Look, I don't give a shit. It's all bullshit to me. If I was in charge, I'd just concrete the thing over.'"

Now Elder is in charge. He was named aviation director after Judy's departure.

The airport project began in 1986, after APP had been reorganized and had set about trying to recover from the "Flying Bacon Affair" four years earlier. In 1982 APP paid $285,000 for a work by James Rosenquist, a 47-foot painting titled Star Thief, an impressionistic view of outer space that was to hang in Eastern Airlines' Concourse B. But the work was never hung. Frank Borman, Eastern's chairman, had been to outer space as an Apollo astronaut, and he was pretty sure he had never seen any strips of raw meat from the backside of a pig wafting through the ether. Borman may not have known art, but he knew space and he knew what he didn't like. He didn't like Star Thief.

The spatter of controversy from "Flying Bacon" may have revealed Borman as an art critic, but it also demonstrated a major shortcoming of public art programs. Founded by county ordinance in 1973, the Art in Public Places Program was to receive 1.5 percent of the construction budget of county projects. As with many other such programs across the U.S., APP's earliest expenditures seemed to go for "plop art," typically works of free-form steel sculpture or rock groupings dropped in front of rail stations and office buildings like so many ponderous afterthoughts.

In 1982 APP's mission was recast. A fifteen-member Art in Public Places Trust was created to oversee the program, and a Professional Advisory Committee of working artists was established to recommend acquisitions. In 1985 Cesar Trasobares was hired as director, and during his tenure, the program flourished. Works by many prominent artists, including Claes Oldenburg and Rockne Krebs, were commissioned and installed, and in 1989 Dade County's APP was the only such program included in Milan's Triannale, an international celebration of the arts.

Part 2

Still, many people considered public art to be useless clutter. Frank Borman wasn't the only taxpayer ticked off by "Flying Bacon." Although he liked the Rosenquist painting, Judy, too, realized that scattering artworks as decorative doodads on public property was not the way to win the hearts and minds of the populous. "My experience was that APP was about hanging pictures," Judy says. "The airport wasn't the place for public art. It just interfered with the operational aspects. I just told APP I wasn't going to throw money to put up pictures."

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