The Newport Beach City Council unanimously voted on Tuesday to approve the establishment of an art and cultural fund, as well as lease a large sculpture for the new civic center.
The fund will be two percent of previously unallocated public benefit fees from development agreements, according to the city’s staff report. This could be as much as $954,000, the report determined.
The sculpture, inspired by seaweed found along the Southern California coastline and named Uprooted II, is by local Corona del Mar artist, Sarah Wilkinson.
Uprooted II will be leased to Newport Beach for one year for $750. The city has the option to buy the art for $25,000.
Arts commissioner Carole Boller said Wilkinson was inspired when she walked along Little Corona Beach.
“(The sculpture) reflects the local character, nature and personality,” she said. “It’s a sample of what we see each day washed up on the beaches.”
The sculpture should be in place in time for the May 4 grand opening.
Arts Commission chairman Robert Smith is pretty happy with both decisions.
“As arts commissioners, we’re excited,” Smith said on Wednesday. “We think (the fund) will (help) enhance the city and we are excited to be working with the council… We see this as a very positive thing.”
As for the sculpture, Smith said he is “delighted” and is eager to have it in place for the grand opening.
The newly established account could potentially be used to buy the sculpture, but councilman Mike Henn estimated it would take at least a year before any substantial amount of funds are available.
Mayor Keith Curry explored this topic during his state of the city speech in February. He jump-started the idea of allocating more resources to public art and cultural facilities.
“It will establish Newport Beach as a community that respects the arts and invests in assets that will truly create public value for years to come,” Curry said in February.
During the Tuesday meeting, Henn also noted that he would like the city to develop a broader master plan for arts and culture.
There are a lot of areas in the city that could be improved, Smith noted.
“You go to most great cities and you will find a fair amount of public art,” he said. “As handsome of a city as this is,” it could use more public art and culture.
Several people spoke in favor of the fund on Tuesday, including Smith, and a few representatives of ExplorOcean.
But not everyone agreed.
Resident Laura Curran spoke in opposition of the fund.
“Clearly we have a vibrant art scene in Newport,” Curran said after naming of many public art and cultural activities in the city, including all the cultural opportunities she has within walking distance from her Corona del Mar home. “If you take the whole city into account, we already have a lot going on.”
The council members comments made it sound as though the city was bereft of art, Curran noted.
The “gap” that needs to be filled with arts and culture was not clearly shown in the staff report, she added.
“But just like good art benefits from vigorous public debate, we deserve a full picture of how these funds would be generated and how they would be spent,” she said. “If you’re shepherding public funds a higher standard needs to be met.”
The council members don’t feel bereft of arts in Newport Beach, Henn responded. This fund demonstrates the commitment the council would like to fulfill to the arts in Newport, he said.
The master plan will help “complete the picture” of arts in Newport Beach so the city is better prepared about where to spend money when the time comes.
“Our goal is to try and improve the city we live in,” Smith said.
“The arts commissioners and I feel that Newport Beach is an astounding, world-class city,” Boller said during Tuesday‘s meeting. “Our arts should energize, excite, educate, thrill and delight us and our visitors.”