Percent for Art Program Change Will Impact City Look

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The Raleigh City Council recently approved an amendment to the Percent for Art program that would now include streetscape improvements as eligible capital projects. The amendment will take affect July 1.

Only major improvements for main thoroughfares would be included, leaving out general maintenance and landscaping improvements.

June Guralnick, Raleigh Arts Commission executive director, said the work on the Hillsborough Street roundabout would be an example of a project that would be eligible for the program, had the ordinance change been passed three years ago.

Started in 2009, the Percent for Art program takes a half of a percent of the general construction costs for capital projects to be used for public art.

Adding streetscaping projects to the ordinance also means more money for public art from those projects.

Guralnick explained that since most eligible projects individually yield between $3,000 and $5,000, the funds from all are pooled and applied toward one project. Last year, she said, there were about 15 projects that provided funds to the program.

“Some of the budgets are small, and just wouldn’t have a great impact on the site with a $2,000 project,” she said.

The Buffalo Road Aquatic Center and Halifax Community Center are two of the first projects funded by the program. Vega Metals of Durham was chosen out of nearly 300 artists who answered the nationwide call for the Buffalo Road pool project, which will start this fall.

Thomas Sayre, chairman of the public art and design board, said the pool project cost about $90,000 and Halifax Community Center is budgeted for about $70,000. Funding for both came primarily from projects from the parks department and was supplemented with funds from other projects.

Percent for Art programs can be found throughout the country, with the percentages ranging from half of a percent to 2 percent. Sayre said that in Broward County, Fla. where they have a broadly defined 2 percent, the city could spend millions of dollars on public art.

“When it’s done for 20 years you get pretty good at it,” said Sayre. “Respective communities come to understand it and support it.”

Sayre said that as the program matures, he’d like to see three to six projects being done a year. The Public Art and Design Board is in the process of creating a master plan that will act as a guideline for how future art will be dispersed throughout the city.

With the inclusion of streetscapes, Sayre said that more money will come into the program, allowing more public art to be created.

“Our main gateways, arteries and thoroughfares are key parts of our city,” said Guralnick. “The idea of having art integrated in at least some of these major thoroughfares is going to make a great deal of difference in terms of the visual appeal of our city.”

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