The Newport Beach City Council agreed that public art is important to the city when they voted 7-0 this week to proceed with phases III and IV of the Sculpture Exhibition in Civic Center Park.
Library Services Director Tim Hetherton made a presentation at the City Council meeting on Tuesday on behalf of the city Arts Commission to explain the Arts Commission’s proposal for funding the next phases of the exhibition, which began in the fall of 2014 with the first phase of 10 art pieces installed in the civic center park, and continued with phase two in the fall of 2015.
Phase III is scheduled for this fall, while phase IV is scheduled for the fall of 2017.
According to the staff report, the acquisition program that the Arts Commission developed for the exhibition created a model in which pieces are loaned for a two-year period. Sculptors of works chosen for the exhibition are provided with a small honorarium to loan their work to the city. The city is responsible for installing the art, while sculptors are responsible for the maintenance and repair of their work. Admission is free and the exhibition continues to be enjoyed by a wide demographic, including schoolchildren, the local community and visitors from Southern California and beyond.
In essence, noted the staff report, the exhibition has become a “museum without walls” that offers the temporary display of public art that allows the city to avoid the obligation and expense of owning public art. The city sought to have a well-balanced representation of public art that would appeal to a diverse audience of all ages, while including artistic merit, durability, practicality and site responsiveness as criteria in the selection. The rotational nature of the exhibit ensures that residents and guests can experience a variety of art.
Hetherton told the council that the arts commission wished to utilize the funding source created by Council Policy I13, the Public Arts and Cultural Facilities Fund, supplanted by fundraising from the Newport Beach Arts Foundation.
“The Arts Commission hopes to make this particular project [sustainable] and provide sponsorship opportunities, make the sculpture garden a site for public activities and events, and promote cultural tourism, which is an important part of the city’s economy.”
Hetherton cited a study that showed the arts and cultural businesses in Newport Beach generated $57 million of direct and indirect spending annually.
Staff estimates the cost of the project at $125,000.00 per phase, based on the cost breakdown of the two previous phases. The Arts Commission intends to use these funds to hire a project coordinator, initiate an online call-for-entry, provide honorariums for a curatorial selection panel that will include a landscape architect, hire an installation firm, and provide honorariums for the 10 artists selected to display their work.
After opening the item to public comment and getting none, Councilman Ed Selich moved to approve the motion to fund the exhibitions, stating that “it’s an opportunity to keep moving ahead with the sculpture garden and give encouragement to move ahead in coming up with private-public partnerships. This will give them breathing room.”
Councilman Scott Peotter said he was inclined not to support the item.
“I have seen no progress, the effort seems to have gotten nowhere in raising funds,” he said. “But based on the new chairwoman, Lynn Selich, and the progress she has made with the concept of having a private fundraising arm, I am going to support this, but it’s a measured support. I will gladly yank phase IV support if there is no progress.”
“I my opinion, there has been a lot of progress made—there has been dramatic movement forward to add to conversation of the private funding aspect,” said Mayor Diane Dixon, who told the arts commissioners in attendance that the sculpture exhibition is “a fundamental part of our arts program going forward. You’re headed in the right direction. I commend the hard work you are doing.”