Public art has two components, and only one of them is art. What Portland’s Public Art Committee appears to have learned from the Tracing the Fore fiasco is that if you don’t listen to the public before committing to an installation, you will have to listen to it after the fact, and you may not like what it has to say.

This time, the question is how the city should spend its budget for usable art benches in a series of pocket parks along the new Bayside Trail. Rather than make a recommendation this week, the panel chose to get public input at its next meeting and then make its final recommendation to the City Council in September.

This kind of dialogue might have prevented the problems with Tracing the Fore, a sculpture that was supposed to combine rigid metal forms with long grass that would blow in the wind, suggesting undulating waves on a river.

Instead the grass never took, weeds grew instead and the rigid forms looked more like a graveyard for old saw blades than anything riparian.

The neighbors rebelled and eventually the city agreed to remove the sculpture, but only after a series of painful meetings from which no one walked away happy. The lesson learned was that even though you may not get everyone to agree, every piece of public art needs at least some fans in the neighborhood to be a success.

The Public Art Committee is just an advisory body and tends to get attention only when it does things that people don’t like. The Monument Square bus shelter, which was approved through the committee’s process, comes to mind as an interesting and engaging piece of usable art that has become part of the fabric of the city. But controversies over the committee’s proposed rejection of donated statues outside Hadlock Field and a larger-than-life image of Portland’s founder George Cleeve tend to be what people remember.

Before there’s another controversy, it’s time for the public to get involved and express an opinion about what would be the best use of the city’s art budget for the Bayside Trail.

Too often, people don’t engage until a piece has been installed and changes are hard to come by. If the public has to live with it, the pubic should speak up.