The arts in ‘Our Hands’

Council agrees to repair iconic structure, but other public art needs help, too

When Monica McDaniel became a member of the Chico Arts Commission back in 2009, the city was funding all kinds of arts organizations—theater, music, ballet, galleries, you name it—as well as a full-time arts coordinator. “All that’s gone away,” she told the City Council during its meeting last Tuesday (Dec. 20), “but that’s fine.”

“Fine” may be overstating it somewhat, but we understand what McDaniel was saying. Like most of us, she realizes that, because of the recession and other factors, the city has been struggling to maintain basic services. But now that its finances are looking up, she and her fellow arts commissioners believe—as do we—that it’s time for the city to become a friend of the arts once again.

Besides, it makes financial sense. As a city-sponsored 2015 report states, the arts help the city’s bottom line by bringing in more than $500,000 annually that goes directly into the general fund.

Council members seem to agree that it’s time to start taking better care of our public art. On Tuesday, they voted 6-0 to support an Arts Commission request to authorize just under $5,000 to restore the iconic “Our Hands” sculpture in front of City Hall (Ann Schwab recused herself because she co-owns a nearby business).

When it was installed, in 2000, artist Donna Billick said it would need repairing in 10 years. Those repairs never materialized. Now it’s nearly 17 years later, and the sculpture is well overdue for a tune-up. To the council members’ credit, they agreed and allocated the requested funding.

We hope they also follow along with the commission’s plan to inventory the nearly three dozen remaining artworks to determine which are most in need and worthy of similar restoration. Chico has long been recognized as an arts-rich town, and the council has taken a small but significant step toward restoring that reputation.