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Monday, January 28, 2008

Cincinnati May Copy Toledo's City Art Program: $3.4 Million Yearly For Artists And Culture

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- There are no numbers in City Manager Milton Dohoney's memo, but he is recommending Cincinnati start a public art program that could set aside about 1 percent of each year's capital budget for artists, cultural organizations and an established public art collection. Based on the current capital budget, and some quick back of the envelope calculations, that could be as much as $3.4 million a year. He also says the city needs someone to function in the role of minister of culture -- although no such language was used. Toledo started dedicating 1 percent of its budget to public art 30 years ago, and was the nation's first city to make that move.

The memo was in response to a request for a study made last June by former Vice Mayor Jim Tarbell and Councilman Chris Bortz, both members of the independent Charter Party that holds two the nine council seats in Cincinnati. Tarbell resigned last fall in the face of term limits.

The city manager's memo, an e-gov link is accessible here, is now being circulated at City Hall and says the Cincinnati needs a public art policy, along with some accounting that shows what it currently owns (nothing by Picasso or Van Gogh should turn up) and how much everything is worth on today's market. He says the art collection of statues, paintings, and fountains is extensive, but there is no central control. He says there needs to be some funding mechanism to maintain and grow the collection and suggests:

"A percent for art ordinance that would designate a fixed percentage of funds from eligible City capital improvement projects for public art programs is recommended. The most common dedicated funding source for public art programs is the percent for art program or ordinance that designates a specified portion of funds from capital construction budgets for public art expenditures. Model programs such as San Diego, CA, Broward County, FL, and Portland, OR, designate by ordinance 2 percent of eligible capital improvement project budgets for public art."

Dohoney said the city needs a consultant to find out what it already has, and also how much money in the capital budget should be earmarked for public art.

" . . . the City of Cincinnati has never had a formal public art program, standardized public art policies and procedures, a comprehensive inventory of its public art collection, or a dedicated funding source for public art acquisition, administrative activities, and artwork maintenance and conservation. Public art collection, management, acquisition and siting are spread among six City departments. In addition to the five departments that control parts of the collection, the Cincinnati Municipal Code gives the Cincinnati Planning Commission control of 'the location of statuary and other works of art which are or may become the property of the city, and the removal of any such works belonging to the city.' There are no City administrative staff dedicated to public art responsibilities."

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