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The craftsman
Vol. V, No. 4 (January 1904)

Warner, John Dewitt
The importance of municipal improvements,   pp. 362-367 PDF (2.1 MB)


Page 365


MUNICIPAL IMPROVEMENTS
feel it without waiting to reason it out, and
probably none who, having thought, will
raise any question. Take growth in pros-
perous citizenship. The individual factors
of such citizenship, wherever they may have
attained their prosperity, are precisely those
who have thereby become most free to choose
the location of their residence, and most dis-
posed to do so with reference to pleasant life
for themselves or other families. As be-
tween any given city and every other at
which such citizens might settle, there is,
therefore, a most practical rivalry as to
which shall offer the most potent attractions.
To most, this will largely mean the most
beautiful, healthful and comfortable place
of residence. And it goes without saying
that far more than residence is thus involved.
For in proportion as one is held at a city, or
brought back to it by his comfort-his
tastes-his home associations, in like pro-
portion will that city tend to be the place of
his investments, the arena of his enterprise,
the beneficiary of his bounty.
  As a    business proposition, therefore,
Municipal Art in its widest sense is the most
tempting investment possible for a city so
favored as easily to be made beautiful-a
most essential one for one less fortunately
placed, and one of the most profitable possi-
ble that either can make.
   Again:   The principle of democracy-
that the public expenditure should be most
favored that most equally benefits the great-
est number-suggests adequate-liberal-
investment in public art. For, after all, at-
tracted and held as are the well to do by its
aggregate at a given city or neighbor-
hood, keen enjoyment of its details charac-
terizes our masses far more than our classes.
In our courts, on our exchanges, in our
legislatures, at work in our laboratories, we
find many distinguished and worthy men
who have cultivated one or a few senses at
the expense of the rest, and who have become
blind to color, deaf to music, or dumb to feel-
ing. But your average fellow-citizen is not
so. Nine out of ten, taken at random from
your schools, your workshops, your holiday
crowds, can still see and hear; and their
heartstrings sound true to every touch of
sentiment. The masses of no city have ever
failed to appreciate a great temple, a beau-
tiful park, a dignified statue, an effective
historic painting, a stirring drama, a strain
of lofty music, or a rhyme that deserved to
be popular.
   Not only this, but public art is peculiarly
for the enjoyment and profit of the great
masses of those in straitened or moderate
circumstances, rather than of the well-to-do.
One whose home is one of ideal comfort,
and filled with art and literature, is so far
independent of outside conditions as to be
least affected by them-and too often least
concerned in them. With the average citi-
zen, however, such of art as he can gather at
his home is far too little to satisfy him. It
is, therefore, the great masses of our people
-wage earners in especial-the very ones
whose home resources are most limited-who
most appreciate and are most interested in
the public art upon which they must depend
to gratify their sense of beauty, to rouse
their civic pride, to stir their public spirit.
   And, finally, for the perpetuation of its
ideals and the culture it prizes, each city
should cherish public art. We cannot tell
precisely what fathers or mothers are now
rearing those who shall control its affairs
fifty years hence. But one thing we do
know, beyond peradventure,-that they will
                                       365


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