A 0.5% tip for public art

Raleigh approves funding formula to grace buildings, parks and public spaces

Staff WriterFebruary 18, 2009 

The Raleigh City Council voted Tuesday to dedicate a constant stream of taxpayer money for the creation and development of public art for city buildings, parks and other public spaces.

City projects planned for after April 1 will be eligible to have 0.5 percent of their total construction cost go toward public art. Eligible projects will be selected by City Manager Russell Allen and submitted to the Raleigh Arts Commission. The commission will determine whether a public art component is appropriate for the project, as well as the type of art and how the artist is chosen.

The vote Tuesday was a victory for local art supporters who have lobbied for years for Raleigh to make public art a priority. Asheville, Chapel Hill and Charlotte have similar ordinances that dedicate 1 percent of the budget for eligible capital projects to public art.

Councilmen Philip Isley and Rodger Koopman were the only two council members who opposed the resolution. Koopman said the city should delay the implementation date until the economy has improved.

Isley said he couldn't support the resolution given the economic uncertainty faced by the city and many of its residents.

"I just don't think it's the right message to send out right now," he said.

Council members Mary-Ann Baldwin and Russ Stephenson argued that supporting public art provides an economic boost and helps draw tourists and talented workers to Raleigh.

Mayor Charles Meeker said many of the city projects covered by the resolution won't be completed for several years. By then, he said, there's a likelihood that the economy will have improved.

He said finding a half-cent for public art is easier now because many city projects are coming in under budget because of declining construction costs.

"They will be under budget just not by as much," he said.

The resolution is intended to be an interim measure that will eventually be replaced by a permanent program. The budget for staffing and operating a permanent program is expected to be discussed as part of the city's coming budget deliberations.

The interim resolution will likely cover the city's new public safety center, which is expected to cost about $140 million to build. That would mean setting aside $700,000 for public art.

The program is designed so that any money not used on a specific project would be pooled and could be used to pay for art projects in existing public spaces around the city.

david.bracken@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4548

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