Story last updated at 11:17 a.m. Thursday, July 11, 2002

'One percent for art' a good fit for Homer
As the Homer City Council continues to debate the "1 percent for art" issue, it appears to be increasingly clear that the measure is favored by residents. Public testimony about the issue has been overwhelmingly supportive of the idea, which would dedicate 1 percent of the cost of new city buildings to works of art to decorate them.

Opponents claim that the money should be spent on more practical things. The argument may have some merit, but in a city that prides itself on being an art hub, arguments in favor of the idea are more in line with what Homer is all about.

We live in a beautiful place that is a thriving and vital arts community. But while the setting is beautiful, the city's buildings, clearly, could use some spiffing up.

Wouldn't visitors and locals alike walking into the Homer City Hall find a focal art piece appropriate? How about in the new animal shelter? The glass mural in the Homer Chamber of Commerce floor and the stained glass eagle in the Homer Post Office are noticed constantly by those passing through, and add to the lives of locals, too.

With careful planning and design, architects and builders can incorporate art and still save money. The Marine Science Center contractors found ways to cut costs and still put in art extras like floor murals. The Alaska Center for Performing Arts in Anchorage used 1 percent art money for design elements like carpet, railings and lighting.

Public art can be seen as another image-enhancing beautification effort, similar to the banners along Pioneer Avenue or city flower beds. We already have public art done by the community, such as the fishing mural on Heath Street or in front of Nomar on Pioneer Avenue. A 1 percent program dedicates money to continue these efforts, bring in professional work, and increase economic opportunities for artists.

Of equal importance, public art advertises a community. It makes Homer attractive and can pay for itself by bringing more visitors and businesses and encouraging them to stay longer -- and spend more money.

Homer already spends money on public art, both through grants to the Homer Council on the Arts and other nonprofits, but also through sales tax breaks to nonprofits in general. The issue is not "Do we want to spend public money on art?" but "Do we want to appropriate money for public art through the design and construction of public facilities?" Art can also be seen as another cost of construction -- the "extras" which make a building more attractive, safe and comfortable. Do we want spartan buildings that have the bare minimum?

As Councilman Curt Marquardt said, it's time for the city to put its money where its mouth is.

We agree. After all, if we didn't care about visual beauty, it's unlikely many of us would live in Homer in the first place.

Art makes us human. Spiritual art, secular art and popular art lift up the soul, unite us as a community and help us reflect upon the glory of our natural setting and the challenge of being human.

The cost of that cannot be calculated, for the benefit is priceless.