Marc Chagall, the celebrated 20th-Century artist said “Great art picks up where nature ends.”

Here in Apache Junction, natural beauty abounds, but public art... not so much. It is widely recognized that cities benefit from investment in public art: Economically, art makes a city more attractive to businesses; Culturally, a city shows its support of the creative community and attracts new residents; Socially, public art invites discussion and reveals the heart of the community.

The Apache Junction City Council discussed creating an Arts Commission at their work session on Monday, June 3, 2019. In October last year, Council heard a presentation from art consultant Dianne Cripe with Artspace 6 who piqued the interest of the members. In December, city staff was given direction to establish a Public Arts Commission.

The role of the Commission will be defined in the coming months, but it will not affect current public art programs at city hall, the library and established art shows and community theater.

On Monday, Program and Resource Manager Heather Patel explained that city staff will propose amendments to three volumes of city code in order to establish the commission:

  • Vol. I, Chapter 2, ordinance creating a Public Arts Commission;
  • Vol. I, Chapter 4, ordinance to establish funding mechanisms; and
  • Vol. II, Chapter 1, zoning code changes to allow for the implementation of a 1% development fee.

Council discussed opening the commission to volunteer members who do not necessarily live within city limits, but have a demonstrated expertise in creating art, teaching art, managing art-related activities or generating funds for art. The desired make-up of the seven-member Commission would be: two members who are practicing artists from the visual, public and performing arts disciplines; two members who are practicing designers, architects and/or historians; one member who is a regional business representative from an organization that supports the arts and culture; one member who is an Apache Junction city resident with interest in the arts and culture and one member who is a person with expertise in visual, performing arts, architecture or urban design. A commissioner’s term would last three years.

According to Resource Manager Patel, the Commission would be tasked with a variety of responsibilities to promote and encourage diverse citizen participation in public art.

They would assist corporations, commercial developments and other private and governmental entities to incorporate public art into their ventures. The Commission would provide information, recommendations and advise city council and staff on public art projects, policies and initiatives relating to the city’s mission and vision statements for all art in public places. They would also serve as the deciding body on public art projects relating to art in private development and recommend the operating and capital improvement program budgets for the public art program. In addition, the Commission would conduct the request for qualifications process for all public art installations and review gifts of art offered to the city for artistic and cultural purposes.

The Council’s discussion of funding public art projects was cautionary. Many communities apply a “Percent for Art” calculation to new developments. New construction of commercial projects include 1% of their construction budget to support public art; however, residential construction may be excluded from this requirement. Council agreed that the details of adding a development fee of this sort will need careful consideration.

Public art may be placed on either public, city-owned property or on private development land in a public space and the Arts Commission would be involved in both. The Planning & Zoning Commission would also be involved with site-specific oversight and the City Council would schedule public hearings when appropriate and hear appeals when necessary.

The proposed schedule for final public art implementation:

  • June 4, 2019: Council unanimously approved direction to staff on components of the ordinances
  • July 2019: Planning and Zoning Commission review and consideration
  • August 2019: Council review and consideration
  • September 2019: Commission member application process
  • November 2019: Commission seated by council
  • January 2020 Public art fees begin

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