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The Public Arts Commission is hoping for changes that will allow it to be more active in soliciting art, including for DownStreet Art's 10th anniversary.

North Adams Arts Commission Seeking More Authority

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The new Public Arts Commission is already seeking to expand its limited abilities.

The commission will ask the City Council to consider ordinance changes that will allow it to be more active in promoting public art in the city.

"We have a change to the ordinance that we have drafted to become a more active commission," said Chairwoman Erica Manville at a recent meeting. "Right now, we're sort of passively waiting to ask for people to put stuff up in public places.  

"The ordinance is kind of static and we'd like to actually look for people, have budget, perhaps have grants ... to become a more active part of the community instead of being a body that just waits for the mayor or someone to need us."

City Councilor Eric Buddington has agreed to submit the proposal on the commission's behalf at Tuesday night's meeting. It will be referred to the General Government Committee for discussion.

The commission was created last year at the request of Mayor Richard Alcombright to take over issues related to art installations on city property that don't fall under any other department's purview. The mayor said he felt it was better for a group with art experience to oversee such displays rather than his office.

The charge to the commission was initially to do an inventory of current public art and possible locations and to develop a contract for the permanent or semi-permanent installations and the responsibilities of artist and city.

Commissioners, however, have felt from the first that the panel should actively promote public art. In researching other commissions for contract and website models, they noted how many of those boards were proactive in soliciting art and aiding in grant finding. It's will also be a partner in managing the city's downtown Cultural District.

"Nobody's come to us," said Commissioner Gail Sellers. "It's kind of like we're sitting in a limbo a little bit because no one's coming to us."

The focus is on next year's 10th anniversary of DownStreet Art. Commissioner Julia Dixon has been in conversation with artist Michelle Daly about 10 public art pieces for the summer as a collaborative project. There's no money and no plan, but just an idea at this stage, she said.

"It's really creating a presence and collaborative projects with the city, now that there's a Public Arts Commission, with as many community stakeholders as possible," Dixon said. "Just to show there's another level of activity, vibrancy happening that summer."

A few ideas are somehow illuminating the churches, mini pop-up parks and some type of shading along the sidewalk from Main Street to Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art "like a visual path that leads you onto Main Street and provides shelter."

"DownStreet Art's whole mission for 10 years is how can we get people to walk around the corner, to walk around Main Street," Dixon said.

Sellers told how the collaborative Adams Art on the Trail brought artists together to apply for grant funding through the local cultural council. That project will place art on participating private property that can be seen from the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail.

"Why can't do something similar where we get artists and make them aware, and they could write for a grant?" she asked.

The Northern Berkshire Cultural Council grant only funds an individual artist, said Dixon, but added, "every artist should be applying for a grant every day." But artists wouldn't need grant money to get involved if the commission could find its own funding, she said.

The commission currently has no budget but Commissioner Nancy Ziter suggested that one of its projects could be a listing of resources for artists.

The commission determined to task its intern, Katrina Staaf, with working on an artists directory, public poperty inventory, public arts management and style guide for a planned website. The commission will also start looking at places that could host public art and funding research.  

"If things come together, we'll have e a lot of work to do and that's a good thing," said Manville.

Tags: art commission,   ordinances,   

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