Friday, February 25, 2011

City of Ketchum to fund public art

Council agrees to give 1.33 percent of capital-project costs

Express Staff Writer

The “Idaho’s Whitewater Heritage” statute is on a sidewalk along Fourth Street in downtown Ketchum. Photo by David N. Seelig

Ketchum's art community received a helping hand from its city government on Tuesday. The City Council agreed to give 1.33 percent of whatever it spends on capital projects to fund public art.

The Ketchum Arts Commission, consisting of nine city-appointed members of the arts community, would use the money to purchase and install art in public places. Making such a contribution to the arts wasn't a difficult decision for the City Council. It waived the usual three readings that would span three meetings and unanimously passed an ordinance Tuesday that commits it to the agreement.

However, neither the Arts Commission nor the council calculated what this 1.33 percent would amount to if the city follows through on all its capital projects. Capital projects aren't routine maintenance tasks but more expensive investments that would have long lifespans, such as rebuilding Atkinson Park's four tennis courts or constructing a new, larger City Hall. Those are both on the city's five-year project plan, which totals an estimated $32 million.

If the city tackles all these projects, which is unlikely, the Arts Commission would receive about $420,000.

Ketchum isn't breaking new trail with this agreement.

Hailey made a very similar arrangement with the Hailey Arts Commission in 2008, agreeing to contribute 1.25 percent of capital projects costing $25,000 or more to public art.


Mark Johnstone, chair of the Hailey Arts Commission, said in an interview that it has since then spent $10,000 on the town's entryway artwork at the edge of McKercher Park, and has $45,000 in the bank waiting for undetermined future projects. He claims the ordinance has been an "absolute success" during a recession that has hurt the arts.

"It's all accumulative," he said. "A little bit here, a little bit there. It all adds up."

Johnstone is also the regional public arts adviser for the Idaho Commission on the Arts, and said Ketchum is the seventh city in Idaho to pass a "percent-for-public-art" ordinance.

"We're all working to convince municipalities that art can be an economic engine, and this is a way to do it," said Johnstone, who's one of five regional advisers covering the entire state.

He said he's not aware of any other cities considering the same legislation at this time.

"Once a city does it, neighbors are encouraged to do likewise," he said.

The Ketchum Arts Commission was able to use existing ordinances as an outline for theirs, according to Jennifer Smith, director of Ketchum's Parks and Recreation Department. The Arts Commission is within Smith's department. Smith said in Tuesday's meeting that 1.33 percent is the standard for many American cities. She said 1 percent of the money spent on capital projects would go to buying, creating and installing art while 0.33 percent would cover administrative and maintenance costs.

Actress Claudia McCain is founder and chair of the Ketchum Arts Commission. She is also on the board of the Arts Foundation for the Wood River Valley. Architect Steve Pruitt is vice chair.

Trevon Milliard:

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