Homer Alaska - Business

Story last updated at 11:47 AM on Wednesday, October 12, 2011

City seeking artists' proposals

City Hall renovation, expansion includes 1-percent for art funds

By Michael Armstrong
Staff Writer


 

Photo by Michael Armstrong

Public Works Director Carey Meyer, left, and Tamara Schmidt, center, listen to Brad Hughes on an an artists' tour of the Homer City Hall renovation. Schmidt and Hughes are artists interested in bidding on a 1-percent for art proposal.

On a rainy afternoon last Thursday as workers got closer to finishing the Homer City Hall addition and renovation, another group walked through the project looking to add their own touches to the $1.5 million project. They won't be adding siding, sheetrock and ceiling tiles, but something equally important.

Art.

Under the city's 1-percent for art ordinance, $15,000 has been appropriated from the construction budget to put art on, around and inside city hall.

Last month, the city put out a request for proposal seeking ideas for art. Proposals are due by 4:30 p.m. Oct. 27. Depending on the proposals selected, one or more pieces will be funded. Artists also can collaborate on ideas.

"One of our goals is to be surrounded not only by our natural beauty, but the artistic beauty of the people who live here," said Angie Newby, chair of the Public Arts Committee, about the 1-percent for art program.

Proposals will be reviewed and recommended for selection by a subcommittee of the Public Arts Committee consisting of committee member Michele Miller; artist Brianne Allen; Todd Steiner of Steiner's North Star Construction, the contractor; City Planner Rick Abboud, representing city employees; and Ann Marie Holen, representing building management.

The Public Arts Committee will review the recommendations for factors such as durability and then will forward them to the Homer City Council for its approval.

"There's a great deal of thought and care and interaction that goes on in these selection committees," Newby said.

On last week's tour local artists Brad Hughes, Michael Murray and Tamara Schmidt walked around and through city hall as Public Works Director Carey Meyer led the visit.

The city hall building committee came up with a paint, siding and trim scheme with one key element, Meyer said.

"We don't want it to look like the Kachemak Bay Campus building," he said, pointing east toward city hall's neighbor on Pioneer Avenue.

Walking around city hall, Meyer pointed out spots artists could consider for sculptures or other art. Planters by the lower entrance could be moved to make room for art. A bare wall with new concrete composite siding tinted "intellectual gray" offers space for a mural. A bare spot now covered with a trash container could hold a sculpture.

Hughes, who created the library sign using his beach stone sculpture method, got excited at the space.

"This thing is loaded with possibilities," Hughes said, waving at the building. "It's a dream project."

One thing artists could bring to the city hall project is a better sense of Homer style. Except for Alaska Native culture, Alaska doesn't really have a dominant style, Hughes said.

"This is an opportunity for Homer to decide what its style should be," he said.

"I think his observation is an excellent one," Newby said. "One of the things about Homer stylistically is it's eclectic."

That's another aspect of city hall's artistic design: incorporating the diverse collection of donated art the city already has. The Public Arts Committee did a general inventory of city art, and has asked for funding in the 2012 budget to do a formal, curated inventory, including photographs and descriptions.

For example, the Ralph Cowles Council Chambers has a display case of art and memorabilia donated by Homer's sister cities. A painting of Homer and Japanese sister city Teshio hangs on the wall behind the council desks. A Diana Tillion painting is next to that with a photo of city namesake Homer Pennock above that. Alan Parks' panoramic mural of Homer residents taken during the 1995 centennial wraps around half the room. In offices and hallways other art hangs, not always well displayed. Other art is in storage.

Some art could go in a new conference room being remodeled in the front of the building. Other art could go in reception areas.

"It's those public spaces that we really want to utilize as the pallet for what we have in our collections," Newby said. "We're really looking forward to a little bit of order and harmony and an opportunity to show some of the beautiful pieces we have already."

As part of the renovation, the Cowles Council Chambers will get new carpeting and paint and maybe new chairs. The art will have to come down for renovation. The Public Arts Committee and volunteers will help hang art after remodeling is done.

"It's going to feel a little bit like Christmas in unwrapping these things," Newby said.

The committee won't be in a rush to put art back up. Newby said they'll look to volunteer Homer artists and gallery owners to advise on how to display current art.

"This is like installing an exhibit," she said. "This will be an installation."

Commissioned art will be part of that installation. As Hughes and fellow artists Murray and Schmidt walked through the tour, they snapped photos and took notes — clearly thinking about how to use the space and add to it.

"The artist is trying to bring beauty," Hughes said. "I'm trying to bring something beautiful and stylish."

As of Monday, nine artists had signed up to receive copies of the city hall plan. Artists interested in receiving plans and proposals can contact deputy clerk Renee Krause at 235-3130. Volunteers interested in helping the Public Arts Committee install the city's art collection sometime next winter can call Newby at 299-1514.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.

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