Edmonds to accept religious artwork

By Janice Podsada

Herald Writer

EDMONDS — Reversing the city’s earlier position, Edmonds Mayor Gary Haakenson said Wednesday the city will accept a watercolor print that depicts a trio of New York City firefighters huddled in front of the American flag and three faint crosses in the background.

The print, a gift to the city from former police chief Tom Miller, was deemed inappropriate by the city attorney for public display because it contained religious imagery.

Haakenson said Wednesday that the city will gladly accept Miller’s gift. Haakenson has asked that a wall at the main fire station in downtown Edmonds be specifically designated for the public display of artwork with religious overtones.

"It will be right on the main entrance into the fire station, where we can put donated art from any faith or denomination. It’s where we’re going to display art donated to us," Haakenson said.

But city attorney W. Scott Snyder cautioned Monday that if city officials choose to accept a painting with Christian symbolism, it will then be responsible for accepting representational art from any religious segment — even symbols that some might consider offensive.

"You can’t choose what’s religion and what’s not," Snyder said Monday.

Miller said he was pleased by the mayor’s decision.

"I’m really very appreciative for what the mayor has done and with such quick action," Miller said Wednesday.

"I think it is a very appropriate location," Miller added. "The fire department is the appropriate place for this painting."

Miller, an Edmonds city councilman and former police chief, purchased the watercolor print from the Main Street Gallery in Edmonds after learning that city officials planned to give him a plaque commemorating his years of service to the city. Miller said he wanted to give the city a gift in return.

Miller did not seek re-election to the council because his work will transfer him to Southern California early next year.

The artist, Denise Cole of Brier, said she was pleased to learn that the city will accept her work after all.

"It’s not that I care about the sale," she said. "I’m really happy the mayor and the people are willing to do this. I think people could see that this political correctness has just gone awry."

Cole said she is donating 20 percent of the proceeds from the print to a World Trade Center victim’s fund. She plans to produce 500 of the limited edition prints.

Miller, who paid $374 for the print, said he will present the watercolor print at the regular meeting of the Edmonds City Council on Dec. 4.

You can call Herald Writer Janice Podsada at 425-339-3029 or send e-mail to podsada@heraldnet.com.

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