North Adams Arts Commission Endorses BCRC Grant Pursuit
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Public Art Commission has given its blessings to DownStreet Art to apply for a grant to fund the installation of public art for its 10th anniversary.
Berkshire Cultural Resource Center Program Manager Michelle Daly told the commissioners Thursday said she plans to apply for some grants and through them request $100,000 to install two new pieces of public art on city-owned property.
"There is a confluence of other amazing creative things happening next summer and we really want to capitalize on that," Daly said. "We would like to reinvigorate our public art program as part of that and now that there is a Public Art Commission, I am reaching out to you to start that conversation."
She has two locations in mind, but they are up for negotiation: One is City Hall and the other the small park on Ashland Street.
"I want them to be big and highly visible and make a statement," Daly said. The center is a program of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts that also runs Gallery 51. It has coordinated the DownStreet Art summer program since its launch in 2008.
The center would solicit a request for proposals and a selection committee will be created to help choose the artists.
Commissioner Eric Kerns asked who would be responsible for the art once it is gifted to the city.
Daly said the grant should afford a few years of maintenance but after that, it will be up to the city.
Kerns also said he wanted to make sure the city has an "out" with the public art and can change or decommission the pieces if need be.
"The work is going to change hands and we want to make sure whatever deal is made covers all of the things the city needs to be covered," Kerns said. "We want a clean chain of custody between the thing so we don't have to renegotiate when the city takes it."
Commissioner Julia Dixon said part of the commission's reason for existence is to oversee public art and maintain the city's right to control it. She said in the past, DownStreet Art pieces were commissioned without any maintenance agreements or language that would allow decommissioning.
Daly said this language would be written into the RFP and into any contract with the artist so the city does have the right to change the art or remove it.
The grant process comes in two steps, she explained, and the center will not need an official agreement from the commission until the application makes it to a second round. She said the art would most likely be installed in summer 2018.
Dixon said she also has eyes on a state matching grant called Commonwealth Places. The state would match up to $50,000 of crowd-funded money through the city to revitalize public spaces.
She was interested in possibly closing off parking spots and creating pop-up parks.The spaces could shift throughout the summer and different artists could design the parks.
The commission also reviewed an ordinance change that has been to the General Government Committee for fine tuning.
The bulk of the discussion centered around whether the ordinance should say the commission is responsible for only permanent art, temporary art, both or "semi-permanent" art.
"When the commission was created, I think there was the opinion that the commission would only deal with substantial art that would be hard to lift," City Councilor Eric Buddington, a member of the General Government Committee, told the commission. "Big things, not small transient art that may be would come and go quickly."
Buddington said an extreme example of temporary art could be Christmas decorations in City Hall and asked if it was worth using the word temporary or, if so, attaching guidelines as to what temporary means.
Commissioner Gail Sellers asked if the word "permanent" was used, would that mean crosswalk painting, chalk drawings, or other street paintings would not have to come before the commission? And if left out, would the commission have to approve the temporary Christmas tree or Winterfest ice sculptures?
Kerns said none of the art they approve is technically permanent because the city reserves the right to decommission it. However, he added that monitoring of Christmas decorations is too extreme of an example but felt without the word "temporary" some people could bypass the commission with more long-lasting art that could be considered temporary.
He said if someone were to build a giant ice sculptor downtown, even though it would eventually melt, the commission still may want to have a say in it.
Kerns added that the commission's job is not enforcement but the ability to accept art and that taking out "temporary" may limit what they can review.
"It's not about enforcement but it limits what we can encourage," he said. "If we become a body that commissions can we only commission things that are permanent?"
Buddington said the commission's purview may come down to liability and any art that may carry liability for the city, temporary or permanent, should filter through the commission.
Still unsure of what words to leave or subtract from the ordinance, the commission agreed to get a reading from the city solicitor.
Before closing, the commissioners discussed setting up a Friends of the Public Art Commission group to help raise funds and design a website that will increase their reach in the community.
Tags: art commission, BCRC, DownStreet Art, ordinances, public art,