Public art could soon have a permanent spot in Minneapolis’ annual budget, after a proposal to annually set aside a percentage of the city’s net debt bond won the support of a City Council committee Thursday.
The new ordinance, approved in a 5-0 vote, would impose a minimum amount of funding for maintaining and building new public artworks each year. That number would amount to 1.5 percent of the debt the city takes on for public projects.
In recent years, that’s more or less been the city’s practice, but it’s never been a formal rule. Arts advocates said that’s meant the funding has been unpredictable and uncertain. In recent years, the city has set aside amounts ranging from $203,000 to $605,000. This year, however, Mayor Betsy Hodges’ budget provided no new funds for public art — a move that drew criticism from artists and others.
The mayor’s 2016 budget plan provides $580,000 for public art.
Mary Altman, the city’s public arts administrator, said the funding plan would allow the amount to fluctuate along with the city’s budget and its broader ability to fund a range of public improvements. The ordinance does not specify where the funds must come from.
“The net debt bond is a consistent part of the capital budget from year to year,” she said. “It grows when support for infrastructure grows, and it shrinks when support for infrastructure shrinks.”
The proposal also comes with a five-year plan for public art, marking the first time the city has done specific long-term planning for new artwork.
Altman also pointed to the large number of cities that already have ordinances providing steady funding for public art. On a Forbes magazine list of the country’s 15 “most livable cities” — on which Minneapolis ranks No. 11 — Minneapolis was one of three that does not have such a law. Meanwhile, all of the 20 fastest-growing cities in the U.S. have such provisions.
Since 2009, St. Paul has required that 1 percent of money spent on eligible public projects is used for public art.
A handful of artists and leaders of arts groups told council members that they’re supportive of regular funding for public art because it is an asset the public controls.
Brenda Kayzar, board president of the northeast Minneapolis Arts Association, pointed to the recently completed mural of Bob Dylan in downtown Minneapolis. She said the massive painting has drawn attention and admiration from the public and is a boost for the city — but because it is on a private building, it’s not entirely something the city can claim.
“It highlights the need for the city to have its own legacy,” she said.
Wing Young Huie, a south Minneapolis artist, said his own development was shaped as much by public art as by the works he studied in museums. He said the development of neighborhoods is directly influenced by the presence and encouragement of the arts.
Art, he said, “is not a luxury. It is essential to the city’s well-being.”
Council Member Lisa Goodman said she’s supportive of the ordinance in part because it provides dedicated funds for the upkeep of older artwork.
“We like shiny new things, not taking care of the things we have,” she said. “For the first time in a long time, this clarifies that there will be money available and to maintain the important artwork we have.”
The proposal will now move on to a vote of the full City Council.