Thumbs up, thumbs down, Nov. 7

Published 8:46 am Tuesday, November 7, 2017

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Art-ifying downtown Danville

Local artist Buck Graham will be turning a dead tree trunk in Constitution Square Park into a piece of public art, marking what some hope will be the beginning of a new era of public art in downtown Danville.

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New design guidelines for the historic downtown area were recently finalized, clearing the way for the Danville Architectural Heritage Board to approve a lot more art on the city’s buildings. Graham’s trunk project likely won’t come before the AHB, which governs privately owned historic buildings, not objects and not government-owned structures. But as Mimi Becker, director of the Arts Commission of Danville/Boyle County, explained in our Nov. 3 story, just the presence of a high-visibility public art project can help inspire others to add artistic touches to downtown.

We love the idea of an art-ified downtown, with wall-sized murals — the kind that people take selfies in front of and even travel a good distance to see. It could be just the splash of color Main Street needs. We’ve already got the Arts Commission and the Community Arts Center downtown, and we’ve got a pair of beautiful spaces — Weisiger Park and Constitution Square — that can be used for artistic events, like the recent “art-a-thon” held back in May.

To make an art-ified downtown a reality, there is still a missing piece, which has been mentioned numerous times by AHB members: a public art committee that would review proposed art projects and recommend good ones for approval.

AHB members have said repeatedly they are interested in approving new and creative projects that enhance downtown, but they’re not interested in the responsibility of determining when something is art, and when it isn’t. That makes sense: You don’t want a governmental body trying to decide if an image could be offensive, or if the inclusion of a religious icon is appropriate, for example. It’s bad optics at best and government censorship at worst.

Instead, that responsibility could in theory fall to a public art committee, made up of a cross-section of people who care about Danville. Artists, business owners, downtown residents and others could get together and review proposals, then recommend them for approval to the AHB. That way, the AHB’s only concern is whether projects meet technical specifications, not whether they like it.

We hope, now the new guidelines are in place, a public art committee or something similar can be set up quickly, to keep things moving forward.

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Sheriff catches eight in sex sting

The Boyle County Sheriff’s Office made news in several communities around Kentucky and in some other states last week, after it arrested eight men who allegedly arranged to meet with juveniles in Boyle County for sexual acts.

The men apparently communicated with a person they believed to be a juvenile on a dating or relationship app, and arranged to meet the juvenile through the app. But the juvenile was a fake account created by a Boyle County deputy sheriff, and when the men showed up for the meetings, they were arrested.

Six of the men were from Kentucky cities, most of them fairly nearby. But two of them were from out-of-state — one from Mississippi and the other from Texas.

Sheriff Derek Robbins told us the fake juvenile account began getting messages almost as soon as it was created.

It’s a good thing that the sheriff’s office and other law enforcement agencies are out there, working behind the scenes like this to protect children. But it’s disturbing to know that this kind of criminal behavior appears to be much more common than we might previously have guessed.

If the sheriff’s office was able to catch eight men with this one sting, that unfortunately means there are probably many others who have engaged in the same conduct and gotten away with it; there are probably kids living in our community who have been victims of their behavior.

It’s tough to know what the solutions are for such a difficult problem. You probably can’t catch every sexual predator; you probably can’t make every smartphone app perfectly safe; you probably can’t teach every child every safety precaution. But whatever the solutions are, they all begin with awareness. Now, we’re aware of the problem. That alone will make it much more difficult for the problem to persist.