New artistic voice: Hello, my name is Daniel Donnelly. I’ve been very active with the local arts scene for several years. I’m a former president of the Chico Art Center and current director of the Design and Multimedia in the Art department at Butte College, With this column, I’ve been offered a space to shed light on the arts in our community.
Playing games with public art: Public art is a big part of Chico’s visual landscape, and many of the murals and sculptures around town are there because of the Chico Arts Commission, a volunteer group of local educators, business owners and community members. Arts commissioners are there to direct the city on how and where arts funding is used, but often, usually after the fact, their decisions are met with questions about how those decisions were made.
In the past, public art in Chico has created strong reactions from the community. Projects such as “The Hands” in front of the city building and the plow on Park Avenue are two that have stirred emotions.
A recent project, the $250,000 artistic chess playing area approved by the Chico City Council for the remodeled Downtown Plaza Park, includes a mural and two Elm wood sculptures. Some details of this latest project:
• $80,000 was initially allocated for public art in the Plaza.
• No call for artists or Request for Proposals (RFP) were sent out.
• No drawings or models were presented to those voting on the project.
• The budget, more than tripled to $250,000, was recommended by city staff and then approved to proceed by the City Council.
• The entire remaining budget of the Arts Commission for 2005-06 was given to this project.
• There was no public involvement or input.
• Neither of the artists hired for the project attended either of the two Arts Commission meetings when their project was being discussed. With no sketches or models, this left the commissioners confused as to what they were supposed to be considering. At the Arts Commission meetings where the chess project was being discussed only one community member showed up.
Arts Commission meetings are open to the public every second Wednesday at 7 p.m. If more artists and community members got involved in the public process, there just might be less grumbling about the process after the fact. It’s your move.
Please let me know your thoughts, and send me your favorite art links.