Danville now has a formal process that supporters of the arts hope will bring about more art in public places.
The City Commission approved a draft policy Monday for art in public places. It establishes a committee to oversee how works are called for, paid for and brought to life in the community.
Under the new policy, drafted by the Arts Commission of Danville-Boyle County, a standing committee of at least five people will be formed from among representatives of the local artist community, local schools and Centre College, economic development organizations, a local architect or engineer and a member of the community at large. A member of the arts commission also will serve as the committee chairman, and the arts commission executive director will be a non-voting member.
The policy defines public arts as “visually and/or physically accessible (as appropriate for the project) to all the public. Participation/viewing by the public must be admission-free. Projects generally are out of doors, but may be inside a building, in which case the project should be available to the public frequently and for extended and varied hours.”
Mimi Becker, chairwoman of the arts commission board of directors who presented the policy to the City Commission, said the committee will be charged with doing the majority of the work involved in bringing public art displays to life. That includes calling for artists and projects, establishing location and perhaps most importantly, securing funding.
“When it gets to the City Commission, major funding issues should be settled,” Becker said.
Once the committee works out the project details, the proposal will go to the arts commission board of directors. If the board signs off on the project, a representative will make a presentation to the City Commission.
The process will typically begin, though, when the committee puts out a call to artists. This would include open calls advertising criteria for all artists to apply, invitations to a pool of qualified artists, direct contact with an artist or some combination. Artists or community members also can submit their proposals to the committee.
Becker said the arts commission looked through many of the policies in other cities — including Louisville and Lexington — with track records of multiple public art projects. Instead of making it more difficult to get things made and presented, Becker said the impetus for forming the committee and the policy is to add to the town’s limited public art inventory.
“We wanted to put a policy in place that sets some guidelines, but that will be encouraging and not daunting for artists,” Becker said.
Becker said the committee may have five members to begin with. However, she noted the group can be expanded to included people with expertise in certain areas and city staff who may need to be involved in planning and logistics.
The policy also calls for the artwork to become the property of the city of Danville once it is completed, but that could be subject to change depending on the requirements for maintenance and whether the artist might require the piece be on display for only a limited period of time. Although artists maintain copyrights, Becker said the city would have reproduction rights to images of the art for promotional and educational reasons.
The process already has been put through a small-scale trial run with the project to paint fire hydrants before the October vice-presidential debate at Centre College. Becker said participants in the Governor's Scholars Program at Centre under the guidance of instructor Jane Dewey, who is also a teacher in the Danville school system, primarily will be responsible for painting one of two designs on hydrants around campus and downtown.
Becker said that project has been funded by DecoArt in Stanford and will likely be under way soon.
A discussion about who should ultimately make decisions regarding public art was touched off in January when local artist Russ Barragan presented plans for a sculpture of a 4-foot-tall brass band musician to go in Weisiger Park.
Community Arts Center Director Mary Beth Touchstone, who was part of a Heart of Danville committee that approved the sculpture, said funding is still being sought for the work. Small, raised relief reproductions of the sculpture have been sold to fund some of the project, estimated to cost about $30,000.
At the time Barragan’s plans were presented, Wilma Brown, a local artist and former director of the Arts Center, called for the City Commission to look at the review process other cities use to review and support public installations. Brown is happy with what she saw from the policy and believes it is a good place for the city to start.