A facebook post written by local muralist Nils Westergard set off a bit of a
A facebook post written by local muralist Nils Westergard set off a bit of a firestorm for the inbox of Ellyn Parker, Public Art Coordinator and Secretary to the Public Art Commission.
Westergard said he’d lost a lot of faith in the City’s Public Arts Commission and its efforts to support local artists, and local muralists in particular – He even said he was told the PAC wasn’t interested in funding murals because other groups, like the Richmond Mural Project, had that kind of art covered.
But Parker said that wasn’t the case.
“Nobody has ever said we don’t want to fund murals,” Parker said in a phone call with RVAMag. “The [PAC’s] job is about gathering information and we’ve had a lot of feedback about murals and local arts.”
She said the PAC’s online survey had received about 500 responses since it went live late last year, and a majority, about 70%, put murals and funding local art projects at the top of their priorities.
“The consultant team writes the Master Plan and then the PAC approves it. Until that plan is done, we’re not putting out any new calls for projects,” she said.
The Public Art Commission is overseeing public input, and The consulting team eventually will draft a Master Plan for the city to spend about $3.2 million in money reserved for public art in connection to Capital Improvement Projects (CIP). City Council will then have to approve the plan.
The money came from small amounts being collected from larger city projects, like the construction of the new City Jail.
The two CIP projects Nils noted in his complaint this AM were the Maggie Walker statue set for Broad and Adams, as well as a riverside sculpture connected to the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge project.
Both projects have tapped out-of-state artists, another issue Nils took with the PAC’s actions so far.
Parker said both were in the works prior to the PAC increasing its public presence late last year. Since then, the city hired Parker to act as a public art coordinator for the PAC. Two consultants were brought in to help guide the project, Gail M. Goldman and Gretchen Freeman.
According to Nils, it was one of the two consultants who told him murals were not a priority for the project, but Parker, who has a background in art and mural work, stressed that far from the truth.
She said the PAC is expected to comb through survey response from the public through May and draft a Master Plan for public comment by around June. From there it will go through the planning commission before landing at City Council for a final vote.
As city arts funding sits now, a number of rules and regulations also hinder the process. For one, city money cannot be spent on art on private property – this would limit walls available to muralists. All of this, according to Parker, could and should be addressed in the Master Plan.
You can still have your voice heard by filling out the survey here, until then, Parker said the plan is far from finished, and the PAC looks forward to satisfying as much of the public as it can.