Published: Apr 24, 2012 06:00 PM
Modified: Apr 24, 2012 10:20 AM
New Cary policy: “Why no art?”
Council likes art-friendly stance, rebuffs funding proposal
Cary officials may strengthen the program that produced the town’s metallic marching band and see-through horse. Under a proposed policy, the town may ask “why we’re not doing art” at each opportunity, said cultural arts director Lyman Collins at an April 17 meeting. Currently, Cary doesn’t require that public projects come with public art. Town planners and elected officials must actively decide to include artistic touches, from sculptures to murals. The proposed policy would make art the optional default.If the new arts plan passes later this year, the town will incorporate artists earlier in the design of public projects, and ingrain the call for public art in its planning protocols. The rule wouldn’t mandate art with each road widening and recycling center – but it would require planners to consider the option.“When you would look at a project, the first assumption would be, ‘Well, there’s going to be public art.’ Then the second question is, is (art) appropriate here?” Collins said.Already in the works for 10 months, the arts plan update will be the town’s first revision of its public art policy since 2001, when council members decided to create the town’s public art program. The town has paid $48,000 for the services of Brown & Keener Urban Design, a firm Collins said brings broad and detailed knowledge of the topic.The new policy’s goals will be to “enhance the public realm, deepen a sense of place and civic identity, stimulate community dialogue and transform Cary’s public places,” as articulated by the town’s Philadelphia-based consultant. The update addresses the needs of a maturing art program, Collins said.Besides shoring up town support for art, the new plan also will encourage art in private developments. Currently, “it’s more cajoling” that gets public art into shopping centers and other projects, Collins said. The next drafts of the plan may include incentives to encourage private developers to include art in the semi-public spaces they build.No funding changeWhile unanimously supporting the pro-art policy, the Cary Town Council rebuffed a consultant’s proposal to automatically fund public art.“I have no problem saying that when we build significant public projects, we consider art,” said Councilman Don Frantz. But he and a Cary Town Council majority worried that policy-guaranteed money for public art could create a glut for the program.. Under the current model, by which the council funds each project individually, the town has spent $1.6 million since 2003 on public art, an annual average of about $160,000. This number is inflated by “once-in-a-lifetime” spending on the art-adorned Cary Arts Center, the consultant said.Under the consultant’s proposal, the town would have set aside one percent of the budget of sidewalks, parks and other capital projects. The consultant projected the policy would have funded the art program at about $102,000 a year. “The trap you fall into with fixed amounts is that you want to use it,” said Councilman Jack Smith, recalling some excessive-seeming art projects in a city with a similar policy. But he did like the idea of a more structured art program, he said.Councilwoman Jennifer Robinson argued that the fixed-rate spending could benefit the town’s artistic efforts.“I think it gives some level of predictability,” she said, adding that guaranteed funding could quell the political fights the council sometimes faces as it considers spending money on art.Council members Smith, Frantz, Gale Adcock and Mayor Harold Weinbrecht indicated they wouldn’t support the “funding by percent” option.. Unless an alternative is proposed, the council will continue to make the call on funding for public art on a project-by-project basis.
Kenney: 919-460-2608 or twitter.com/KenneyOnCary