Monday, June 21, 2004

Cincinnati weighs public art program

City council committee discusses budget plans

By Jackie Demaline
Enquirer staff writer

A public art program for Cincinnati is finally on the table.

Public art - work created by artists for specific sites used by the public and involving community process in its creation - is formalized in more than 350 cities in the United States. The first was in Philadelphia in 1959.

Public art has been simmering on back burners of local arts planners for more than a decade and was a central issue in the Regional Cultural Plan completed in 1999.

"Cincinnati has an opportunity to take bold steps," said James Garges, director of the Cincinnati Recreation Commission. He was instrumental in putting together public art programs in Topeka, Kan., and Kettering, Ohio.

Recommendations were put forth at last week's meeting of the Arts and Culture Committee of Cincinnati City Council held at Findlay Market.

Committee Chairman James Tarbell noted: "No one organization represents the larger interest of the entire community."

Establishing a public art program, he said, is a way to demonstrate that the city "takes its arts mission seriously."

The recommendations:

• Develop and establish public art policy and a program.

• Adopt a Percent for Art ordinance with permanent, pooled funds for public art.

(Most public art ordinances allocate between 1 percent and 2 percent of capital improvement budgets for public art. Cleveland adopted a 1.5 percent art ordinance in late 2003. Columbus and Indianapolis have entered formal proposals.)

• Standardize city policies and procedures for public art to include consideration in planning processes; reviewing and accepting donated works; contracting with artists; and operating, maintaining and conserving art works.

• Inventory and document the city's public art collection.

• Appoint a public art planning committee and contract with a public art consultant.

City Arts Officer Carolyn Gutjahr points to a strong foundation for developing a public art program for Cincinnati.

"The city has a public art collection, the Park Board and Recreation Commission have undertaken permanent public art projects" recently in the Theodore Berry International Friendship Park.

Ideally, says Garges, there will be a budget established and goals in place by the end of the year. "The challenge," he adds, "is can we find funding to start the program?"

Councilman David Crowley has words of caution. Any request for funding in the upcoming city budget "will test our commitment to art in the long run. This may not be the year to do it."



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