Our opinion: The sign’s rather nice

Beauty, like supreme dominion

Is but supported by opinion

Benjamin Franklin,

Poor Richard’s Almanac, 1741

So it is with the graphic arts as well: Assessing them is far more subjective than objective.

To some, Jackson Pollock was an artistic crackpot who threw, dripped, squirted, but seldom employed a brush to apply paint to canvas. To the person who paid $140 million for one of Pollock’s canvases in 2006, and more than a few art critics, he was a genius.

And so it is with something so seemingly mundane as the three-word sign that has appeared on the front of the Crary Art Gallery, which simply and we believe – subjectively of course – rather elegantly labels the building and its mission.

Others will disagree with us, of course.

But, this is not an art review in which the critic looks for some deep, existential meaning in the convergence of brush strokes that the artist was trying to convey, but rather a brief discussion of the difficulty of legislating what one is permitted to display on one’s private property.

In this case, the property in question is an art gallery. In and of itself, a permanent art gallery of the quality of the Crary is almost unheard of in a community the size of Warren.

About a year and a half ago, the city’s Planning Commission finalized almost two years of work on revamping Warren’s 1981 version of its sign ordinance, restricting electronic signs in the historic district to maintain as much as possible the historic flavor of the area.

There are also size restrictions delineated in the ordinance, and it is the size restriction that the Crary’s public label exceeds.

It is testimony to the difficulty of promulgating regulations dealing with subjective issues that it took the Planning Commission so long to render all of the variables of taste and public safety down to a single ordinance amendment. To its credit, the panel included a provision suggesting that signs should be constructed to compliment a building’s architectural style and materials, and left open the option of taking a design before the Zoning Hearing Board for an exception to the rule.

We find the Crary’s sign unobtrusive and in character with the building’s architecture – which, by the way, drew some gasps from historical purists at the time of its construction – and, certainly not a distraction to either motor or pedestrian traffic.

In short, that the sign is slightly larger that the limit, seems necessary to its placement. It’s approval by the Zoning Hearing Board would certainly meet with our approval.

But, again, that’s subjective.