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Pay To Paint: Should The City Fund Public Art?
Pay To Paint: Should The City Fund Public Art?

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AIR DATE: May 7, 2013

GUESTS

Marlene Reid, artist and small business owner

Bob Beers, City Councilman, Ward 2

BY AMY KINGSLEY -- The recession has forced the city council to make hard choices. And now Councilman Bob Beers wants his colleagues to choose whether public funds should be spent on art or other essential services.

Beers wants to change the Percent for the Arts fund, which allocates 1 percent of the capital improvement budget for public art projects, into a voluntary program. That would allow the city to spend that money, which adds up to an average of $150,000 a year, on other things. He said most taxpayers don’t approve of spending public funds on art.

“You take a fundamentally unpopular thing and set it on auto-pilot, putting essentially the city in the position of having to lay people off while buying art, and there being no vote of the governance structure to approve that,” Beers said. “To me, that’s immoral.”

But in a recent public hearing, not one person spoke in support of the proposed change. Instead, artists and small business owners extolled the benefits of public art. Councilman Beers dismissed the speakers as a “thin special interest.”

Marlene Reid owns a boutique in the Arts District, Vexed by Design, and she supports the city’s art program. Unlike Beers, she hears wide support for public arts, and not just from her neighbors in the Arts District.

“We don’t live in a bubble down in the Arts District,” Reid said. “We interact with people all over the valley. The consensus that I get, is that this is something that makes these difficult times easier to live in. It’s something that lifts the soul. It encourages you. It gives you hope that things will get better.”

But Beers said the arts will continue to thrive, with or without the city’s support.

“Art exists without government,” he said.

 

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    COMMENTS:
    In whose warped mind is it a proper function of government to provide what is essentially aesthetic entertainment? If some store owner wants art in their neighborhood, let them pay for it with their own money, for too I'm busy spending *my* money on things that *I* want and need to worry about what *they* want. The amount of money government spends on art - which, in any case, is wholly in the eye of the beholder - should be ZERO dollars, period. If government must consume and waste our personal wealth, at least let the money it collects be spent on something that is *needed* rather than something that is simply *wanted*.
    Tom HurstMay 9, 2013 11:28:55 AM
    Disclaimer-I am current chair of the arts commission, but beyond basic facts this response is my own, and incomplete at 500 characters. The % fund is self-adjusting; capped at $1 million (the 1.4m referred to is actually the total for 10yrs), & overages (it's never come close) would revert back into the capital projects budget, NOT that from which salaries are paid. Therefore dire times= little/no capital project spending= little/nothing goes into the fund. What is not used rolls over to cover lean times and maintain existing artwork. The relative amount is merely symbolic in the face of projected budget shortfalls in the tens of millions. The commission was formed to advise Council on visual art & 9 of its 12 unpaid members are appointed by each councilmember and the Mayor; each year a municipal art plan for the % fund is submitted to city council for approval. Artists are selected by an inclusive process w/community members-there are projects in every ward (Police Memorial is in mine), not just downtown- & artist selections are approved by the commission at public meetings. The vast majority are local artists who buy supplies, hire contractors, pay taxes out of modest fees.
    Maura ParrottMay 7, 2013 15:22:56 PM
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