Council adopts changes to city's Percent for Art Program process

After disbanding an arts commission nearly three years ago, the West Linn City Council approved policies and guidelines for the public art selection process during its Sept. 12 meeting.

The city has a policy, Percent for Art, that generates money for public art. It is associated with new construction.

For eligible projects, the city must build within 1.5 percent to a project's budget to obtain public art. One percent goes toward the actual art and the .5 percent goes toward the process of getting art, such as staff time, fees and design concepts.

A recent example of a project that raised art funds is the Fields Bridge Park restrooms. The $224,348 project generated $3,365 for public art, which is the only money in the art fund currently.

For a number of years, the city had an arts commission comprised of West Linn citizens. This commission oversaw the public art selection process. The group would meet multiple times per project to meet with artists, get proposals and then select a favorite project.

The arts commission also helped with many of the community's public art festivals.

The city determined the resources used in the old selection process incurred more expenses than the allotted .5 percent for many of the smaller projects, thus taking money from other funds.

'The old process was expensive in staff and council time for smaller projects,' said Parks and Recreation Director Ken Worcester. 'I would rather see money go to art rather than the process.'

However, with a lack of eligible art funds and no upcoming projects, the commission's involvement with the selection process faded.

The city council disbanded the commission in Nov. 2008.

Prior to the disbandment, there were a series of town hall meetings held, facilitated by the Clackamas Arts Alliance, in the hopes of designing and forming a new committee. However, according to Kirsten Wyatt, assistant city manager, there was a lack of community interest and the idea fizzled out.

Because there were no new eligible projects on the horizon, the art selection process was not on any city council priority list until this year.

In February, the council requested to revisit the arts process, thinking of the proposed police station and library parking, both of which would generate art money if approved. As a result, the council asked the parks and recreation advisory board to make a recommendation on the art selection process.

The parks and recreation advisory board consists of seven volunteer members who are all appointed by the city council.

The city received feedback from the parks board and then advanced a proposal to the city council.

What the council adopted at their meeting was a set of policies and guidelines breaking down art selection by dollar amount.

For projects less than $1 million, which would generate $10,000 worth of art, the parks and recreation advisory board will oversee art selection. Based on the project and the board members, the board can choose the art itself, form a citizen committee to help, or use a third party, such as the Clackamas Arts Alliance, to aid in the selection process.

The Clackamas Arts Alliance, which is a division of the Clackamas County Department

of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, works with multiple cities in procuring public art. According to the art alliance's website, they routinely seek community participation in the planning and selection process.

'They could tailor a process that would fit the needs of the community and also the budget,' said City Manger Chris Jordan.

'It sounds like it is a very nice public process from what I hear,' said Council Member Teri Cummings at a Sept. 6 work session.

For projects greater than $1 million, the city manager will delegate the art selection process, with similar options as above.

The change in policy removes the city council from the selection process. However, in the end, the city council has the final selection in all art projects because the council approves all contracts.

The goal of the guidelines is to streamline the process and cut overhead costs.

'This is no way meant to limit public involvement,' Worcester said. 'Hopefully, this will get us to a point where we can actually start installing art.'

Jordan said the citizens will still be involved in the art selection process as the parks board is comprised of community members and all meetings are open to the public.

'Any committee selected will include citizens of West Linn,' said Council President Jody Carson.

Jordan said adding the art selection process to the parks board makes sense in that the board can incorporate art into upcoming projects rather than waiting until the project is finished and then finding a spot for art.

However, Council Member Teri Cummings and a resident were concerned about the policy. Cummings expressed concern about the parks board members' level of expertise in art and in some of the proposed wording of the document.

'I feel kind of frustrated because I don't think we've gotten much public involvement in this at all,' said Cummings about creating the policy during the work session.

West Linn resident Karie Oakes spoke against the policy during the council meeting. She said the policy would remove citizens from the process and give the city manager and the parks board all the control.

However, West Linn resident Alice Richmond spoke in favor of it, saying she didn't care how it got done, but that the city needs art.

'It doesn't matter who's directing this thing … we are going to get art,' she said. 'I'm not even going to see art in the city before my time.'

'This is the first step, to get a process in place,' Carson said. 'I'd like to see a way for us to get additional art.'

The policy passed 4-1, with Cummings voting against it.

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