If one of the goals of public art is to teach, then the “Tracing the Fore” debacle in Boothby Square can be counted as a success because of all the lessons it has provided.

Portland’s Public Art Committee made a major investment in a challenging piece by a highly respected landscape artist who comes from a prestigious institution. What they got was a headache.

The concept might have looked good on paper, but when the aluminum and grass sculpture by Harvard University professor Shauna Gillies-Smith was installed in a prime Old Port location, reality never matched what the committee thought it was buying.

The rare grass that was supposed to resemble water as it waved in the breeze never took, and the only thing people could see were the rigid aluminum “waves” that stuck up like giant discarded razor blades.

Neighbors were at first confused by the piece, and then angered when they realized that it was never going to look any better. Instead of nurturing it, they organized to make it go away,

And when the committee asked for her help in fulfilling the vision, Gilles-Smith did not offer much.

The final straw fell Wednesday, when she failed to show up for a Public Art Committee meeting at which members were going to look for ways to rescue the failed piece.

Everyone should have learned that it takes more than a good concept for a piece of public art to really work: It requires follow-through from the artist and a community that is proud to host it for it to succeed.

We hope the art committee will take the lesson and keep trying.