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San Antonio artists sound the alarm over proposal to cut public art funding for $ 1.2 billion bond program

San Antonio artists are sounding the alarm over a recommendation to remove public art funding from one of the city’s proposed 2022 bond measures.

The suggestion came from a community committee looking at the drainage and flooding segment of the bond package. Members said every penny should be spent on these projects because flood control is a public safety issue.

“It’s a slippery slope,” said Bill FitzGibbons, an artist who has created public art projects around the world. “If you take public art out of drainage, why not the streets? “

City council is putting in place a $ 1.2 billion program that will go to voters in May. It will finance streets, parks, housing and other facilities as well as drainage projects. Community committees have been meeting since October to discuss how the money should be spent.

FitzGibbons is the driving force behind a campaign to tackle a possible loss of funding. He said he agrees that drainage is important, but that the arts are also important.

He and his fellow artists write and call on board members to express their support for public art and encourage others to do the same. They are also planning to attend a meeting on January 12 where recommendations from community committees will be presented to city council.

“I dream that we all came out and stand up for public art so that it is recorded in the city archives that all of these people have stood up for public art and artists,” said artist Kim Bishop, who is currently working on a project. with its partner Luis Valderas funded as part of a 2017 bonding measure for drainage.

At a Dec. 15 meeting of the drainage committee, some of the members said the amount allocated in the bond was not sufficient to meet the city’s needs. They recommended that the $ 2.5 million earmarked for public art under the measure be directed instead to drainage projects.

Recommendations from community committees are part of the city’s bailout process. For the $ 1.2 billion 2022 package, committees considered recommendations from city staff that allocate $ 165 million for drainage, $ 273.5 million for parks, $ 477 million for streets , $ 134 million for city facilities and $ 150 million for housing.

“The process is not over,” said Krystal Jones, acting director of the city’s Department of Arts and Culture. “The board can accept the recommendations (of the committees) or it can modify the recommendations. They have the last word.

The budget for each measure includes money for public art.

A city ordinance passed in 2011 requires that one percent of the budget of all investment projects be allocated to art. The 2022 bond metrics bring the amount to 1.5%, a change that was made at the request of Jones and his staff.

“There was a feeling that this was the perfect time to start talking about investing more in art, especially because art got us through the pandemic,” she said.

Jones added that work on public artwork continued throughout the public health crisis.

City council will vote to approve the list of projects on February 10. The deposit is expected to be returned to voters on May 7.

Public art funded by the Percentage for Art program must be close to the project where the money is coming from, Jones said, explaining that this means it must be visible from the project site.

Public works of art created as part of drainage projects include George Schroeder’s “Homage to Freedom,” a 75-foot-tall aluminum and steel piece that can be found at 6982 WUS 90; “Bloom”, the installation of giant flowers by Leticia Huerta at McAllister Park; and “Leon Creek Crossing,” Barbara Grygutis’ illuminated aluminum sculptures that arch over a bridge at 6624 W. Hausman Road.

Former mayor Phil Hardberger is backing the push to keep the percentage for art in place as well as the proposed increase. He said public art improves the quality of life and is also a selling point for visitors and potential transplants.

“If we want to get people to come to San Antonio, if we want new business here, make it beautiful,” Hardberger said. “Make it the most beautiful place in Texas. You will have so many people that you will not know what to do with them.

[email protected] | Twitter: @DeborahMartinFR