Council defers decision on Percent for Art project until September

Tuesday, July 19, 2011 | 7:06 p.m. CDT; updated 11:48 a.m. CDT, Monday, September 26, 2011

COLUMBIA — Whether the future Short Street parking garage will be among Columbia's other public works of art is unknown — for now.

The decision to include the garage as a Percent for Art projectwas deferred until September at the City Council meeting Monday. (Click on the map in this link for information about each project.)

Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine said the total cost of the Short Street garage is estimated to be $6 million to $7 million. The Percent for Art program would allow $50,000 to $60,000 of that money to be set aside for a public art project at the site.

Ultimately, the council voted 6 to 1 to defer on the decision until the second week of September, after the budget season wraps up. Fifth Ward Councilwoman Helen Anthony cast the only dissenting vote.

Yolanda Ciolli, member of the Office of Cultural Affairs' Standing Committee on Public Art, spoke at the meeting. She said that the setting of the Short Street garage, located by the North Village Arts District, makes it an ideal opportunity for public art.

“We would make a statement for generations of citizens and visitors that our city values art and culture,” Ciolli said.

Connie Kacprowicz, interim manager of the Office of Cultural Affairs, said that only three projects can be designated as Percent for Art proposals per fiscal year. No other projects have been initiated in 2011, but 11 have been completed since the program's inception in 1997.

Two other garages have been included as Percent for Art projects in the past: “Rolling Ahead" at Eighth and Cherry streets garage and “Sky Algorithm” at Fifth and Walnut streets garage.

Mayor Bob McDavid listed several public art projects around the city he admires, including “Keys to the City” in front of City Hall and “Taking the Plunge” at the Activity and Recreation Center, but said he was not a fan of “Sky Algorithm.”

McDavid said “Sky Algorithm,” designed by a Canadian artist, had both design and workmanship flaws. One flaw inherent in the design is that the piece was built on an interior stairwell and therefore it is not accessible to people with disabilities.

He said he prefers the personal accountability that comes with working with Columbia artists. “We make a mistake when we don’t use local artists,” he said.

Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe agreed that a local artist should design the project. She said designating this garage as a Percent for Art project would be congruent with the goal of a “walk-able Walnut Street” in the Arts District.

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Jimmy Bearfield July 19, 2011 | 10:35 p.m.

The next time the city cries poverty and wants to raise taxes, just point to Percent for Art as an example of how there are still ample opportunities to cut waste. Those who support Percent for Art can dig into their pockets to fund it directly, just as some of us already directly support CMHS.

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