Story last updated at 4:49 p.m. Thursday, August 15, 2002

Council passes art plan
by Carey James
Staff Writer

When Homer's new library is built, the project designer will now be required to factor in approximately $34,000 worth of art into the building, based on the $3.4 million estimated building cost. The same 1 percent for art will also be required of the proposed animal shelter and any other substantial project the city undertakes from now on.

On Monday night, the council voted unanimously in favor of a 1 percent for art ordinance, but not before some significant amendments were added, including a cap and council veto-power.

The 1 percent for art ordinance, originally introduced by councilman Mike Yourkowski and tabled during his absence in July, drew considerable public comment during two previous public hearings.

This week, Yourkowski brought the ordinance off the table and up for consideration, only to be met with a stream of amendments for councilman Rick Ladd, who had expressed his reservations about the ordinance during previous meetings.

the first amendment to the ordinance, which was modeled after Anchorage and the state's art laws, was to increase the minimum amount to which the ordinance would apply from $50,000 to $250,00. Ladd stated the amended amount was in line with what other municipalities had in place. The council approved the first amendment unanimously, but the next proved more controversial. Ladd suggested a cap of $40,00 be applied on projects exceeding $4 million, unless private funding sources were located.

Coucilman John Fenske adamantly disagreed with the cap, saying it detracted from the quality of the ordinance, and stated that many works of art, and projects, can exceed those boundaries.

"These are things that represent our city, our community and represent the people who live here," Fenske said. "I think we need to rethink the idea of capping this."

Councilman Kurt Marquardt agreed with Fenske, saying the cap would send a message about the importance of art to any given project.

"To me, to put a cap on it delegates (art) funding inferior to the overall construction cost of the building," he said. "To me, the cap degrades the value of 1 percent" for art.

Several councilmembers rebutted that perspective, however, saying that economizing does not always mean accepting a lesser value.

"You can't always have the finest of everything," said councilwoman Pat Cue. "I don't know if economizing on certain areas minimizes the value of art."

Coucilman Ray Kranich repeated an argument from earlier debates on the subject, saying he would not have wanted to be the person to tell a fisherman that he can't have a crane because they had to spend $100,000 on an art project.

After a break, a compromised figure of a $70,000 cap on art projects was introduced by Yourkowski, and passed with a vote of four to two.

Ladd then introduced change No. 3, an amendment that put gave the city council final veto power over the art projects incorporated into city buildings. The original ordinance stated that the art works should be chosen and approved by a jury of at least three members, consisting of the architect or project designer, a representative of the user department, a representative of the Public Arts Committee and any other persons as may be designated by regulation. A similar process was followed for acquisition of existing artworks.

Ladd suggested that these recommendations be brought to the city council for approval, sparking yet another debate.

Cue and Marquardt both voiced concerns about the council becoming involved in art selection, saying it would politicize the process.

"The city council members are not (art) jurors," he said. "Maybe something is not always a pretty picture. Art is meant to make people think about it, not just go, 'Oh, that's pretty.'"

But Fenske agreed with Ladd this time, stating that the council had the ultimate responsibility for overseeing how the city's money is spent. He said if the current council is any indication, council's would be diverse enough to fairly consider the selection committee's recommendations.

Further amendments were made to remove the city manager from a role as the approver or disapprover of the art selection, substituting the city council instead.

The final amendment passed four to two, with Cue and Marquardt voting against it this time around.

Yourkowski then commented that he thought all the amendments were important "for the most part" and the council unanimously approved the 1 percent for art ordinance.

All future projects by the city over $250,000 will be required to spend 1 percent of their budget on art, up to $70,000. Some exemptions may apply for projects where art would "not provide any aesthetic benefit to the community or to the principal users of the building or facility.