I would like to clarify points raised in last week’s editorial about the West Broadway Landslide and percent-for-art ordinances. I am an artist and a creative director, but the following may read a bit more like an economic report, so please bear with me.
A percent-for-art ordinance allows for a preplanned and predictable tool that generates a modest annual investment in public art, especially when you consider the town’s total budget and the thousands of people who would benefit from the artwork on a daily basis over the lifespan of the project.
The town of Jackson’s proposed 2020-21 budget is approximately $52 million. A percent-for-art ordinance would primarily affect one fund in the budget, the capital projects fund. The town budget also includes the general fund, special revenue funds (affordable housing, employee housing, animal care, park and parking extractions), water and wastewater enterprise funds, and internal service funds (information technology, fleet management, etc.). If a percent for art ordinance were applied to this year’s capital project fund it would affect only two projects, the Recreation Center expansion and a redesigned pedestrian streetscape. The line item in the town budget for public art would be approximately $28,000.
The mayor and Town Council appoint a Public Art Task Force to review upcoming capital improvement projects and make recommendations about which should include public art based on the town’s guidelines. This year and last year it recommended a budget of $130,000 (combined public and private investment) for public art for the landslide retaining walls if there were funds remaining from the specific purpose excise tax-funded budget, and only after conducting a public input process, which has not begun.
Municipally funded public art projects follow a detailed and transparent process:
Community input is gathered to develop the scope of work.
For each new commission a selection panel unique to that project is created. The selection panel could include residents like engineers, artists, gallery owners, neighbors, landowners and business people. They review each stage of the selection process, including selecting the proposal that best fits the criteria listed in the scope of work.
A request for qualifications is issued, from which a short list of artists are selected. Those artists are paid to develop site-specific, conceptual proposals.
The results of each step are presented for review and approval to the Public Art Task Force and to our elected officials in public meetings.
The public art coordinator’s role is to facilitate the process.
There are 350 public art programs in the country and percent-for-art ordinances have been in use since 1959. There are over 1,300 creative jobs in Teton County, and public art is an investment in our local creative economy that generates revenue for artists, fabricators, engineers, landscape architects, electricians, contractors and photographers. Arts nonprofit and creative industry sales and revenue totaled over $71 million dollars in 2017, generating millions in tax revenue according to the Western States Arts Federation Creative Vitality Index Report.
Jackson Hole Public Art is a community nonprofit committed to commissioning art that celebrates our environment and cultural heritage. Supported by generous donors and business partners, we have seen the creation of close to $1 million in permanent and temporary public art since 2010. These funds have generated commissions for dozens of local artists and three nationally recognized artists, and provided programs for hundreds of local students. JH Public Art offers free, educational programs for local students and youth (Building STEAM, Artmobile), free community events (Stickum Up, Glow Nights, PARKing Day, Moonshot 5x5), professional development opportunities for artists (ArtSpot), and projects that raise awareness about the Zero Landfill Initiative and Wildlife Crossings. Additionally, we provide consulting services for Jackson Hole Airport, the St. John’s Hospital Foundation, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and the Teton Village Association.
Adopting a percent-for-art ordinance would ensure that art is integrated into the civic spaces we elect to build. An ordinance would support the Comprehensive Plan’s goals to build quality public spaces to position the town of Jackson as the cultural, social and civic hub and the regional center for tourism and the arts. The predictability of an ordinance would also help to leverage private investment in municipal projects. Public art can raise awareness about core issues such as environmental stewardship and can inspire us to use alternative transportation. Artists are amazing creative problem solvers, and when they collaborate with our community we all win by gaining infrastructure imbued with beautiful works of art that promote community character and values for generations to come.
Public art is free and accessible to all people regardless of age, income or background. It brings beauty to unexpected places and delights us with daily doses of happiness, the value of which cannot be underestimated.