Arts and Humanities Local News

Mayor Unveils Public Art Plan for Louisville

Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson today unveiled a detailed master plan for public art in city. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer reports. (To listen to the audio of the announcement, click on “Listen to the Story.”)

The plan was developed through the mayor’s office with diverse groups of artists, educators, government officials and property developers. One main achievement was pinpointing a funding stream that does not create new taxes or fees.

The plan modifies a current law that that requires developers who have projects exceeding 100,000 square feet to contribute to use a percentage of their construction budget for public amenities.

Abramson says, under the plan, developers would have an alternative.

“Under the new plan, however, developers would have the option to instead contribute those dollars to a new public space art fund,” Abramson says.

The public art plan’s authors consulted with developers to create this option.

Chuck Kavanaugh is president of the Home Builders Association of Louisville.

“It was very easy to put this together and get back to our commercial council,” Kavanaugh says. “The commercial council at our association is really the largest retail office in industrial developers in town. These people embraced it. They’re very interested in it. They liked the option.”

The plan also includes policies for creating new public art and outlines how artists can participate.

Chris Radtke is co-chair of the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Public Art and worked on the plan.

“One of the innovate aspects of the plan is it moves the core of creative thinking for public projects off of the committee table and into the artist’s studio,” she says. “Artists not only from Louisville but anywhere in the world will be the ones that create ideas for proposals.”

Artists would work with community and non-profit groups to obtain funding.

Metro Council must approve the plan to establish a Commission on Public Art and set up the funding mechanism for projects. The city spent $50,000 to create the plan with New York-based Creative Time, which has worked on public art projects nationwide.


Audio of Mayor’s Announcement

Mayor Abramson Announces Effort to Create Public Art Plan (Sept. 2008)

Feature: Louisville Invests $50,000 for Public Art Master Plan (Sept. 2008)

Feature: An Inventory of Louisville’s Art and the Care It Needs (July 2009)

City Plans to Apply for New Federal Art-Related Grant (Jan. 2010)

Arts and Humanities Local News

Mayor Abramson Announces Effort to Create Public Art Plan

Mayor Jerry Abramson announced today that the city has hired a consultant to develop a master plan for public art. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer reports.

Louisville has public art that ranges from men on horses to bike racks, but today Abramson announced that it is spending $50,000 to develop a master plan for public art in the city.

Abramson says that the plan should ensure that public art is not just downtown but throughout the community.

“Whether we see art in terms of the bridges that we develop along the 100-mile loop around the community, whether it’s in Valley Station or Fern Creek or Highview or Prospect, or whether we see it in suburban settings in suburban parks — all that’s in play,” Abramson says.

Meredith Johnson is a consultant hired by the city from a New York-based organization called Creative Time. She will lead the development of the plan including funding options.

“There are a number of funding sources that are possible for a program like this,” Johnson says. “And over the next year, part of our mission through the master-planning process is really to identify what key sources of funding are for the whole breadth of the program, both short-term and long-term.”

Creative Time has been involved in well-known temporary public art projects including the two vertical towers of light that now shine at the World Trade Center every September.

Besides developing funding strategies, the master plan also will involve an inventory of the public art that exists and conversations about public art with diverse groups throughout the community.

Abramson says that the public art program should spur economic development and convey Louisville’s identity. Today, there are more than 350 public art programs across the country at the city, state and national levels.

Johnson says the process to create the plan should take about a year with a series of pilot projects to follow.

Arts and Humanities In-Depth News Local News

Louisville Invests $50,000 for Public Art Master Plan

Public Art is popping up around the country. There are more than 350 public art programs at the city, state and national levels. And today, Louisville announced it will establish a master plan of its own. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer has more.

Why is public art important?Artist Michael Burrell mounts a mural, which is part of Lexington\'s public art program.

“Art is about life. It’s about economic development. It’s about who we are and what we are as a city.”

That’s Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson announcing that the city is spending $50,000 to develop a master plan for public art over the next year.

While Louisville has had some public art projects, it’s a relative newcomer to forming a plan for public art. Philadelphia has the oldest program and Seattle has one of the nation’s most famous.

But what are the benefits? Proponents say helping a city distinguish itself and attracting people, including tourists and their dollars. That includes Barbara Goldstein. She edited “Public Art by the Book.”

“Public art reinforces urban design,” Goldstein says. “It can make a place extraordinary. It can help reinforce the public qualities of the space by stimulating people to be there, to stay there, to enjoy the space, to ask questions.”

Still, some controversies have shaken people’s faith in public art. In the 1980s, “Tilted Arc,” an imposing sculpture on a New York City plaza, generated a public hearing ushering its removal. In 2005, Louisville removed and severely damaged a large sculpture sitting outside the Jefferson County Courthouse. Then in 2006, Louisville sanctioned a graffiti wall for artists on East Market Street. Soon after obscenities were scrawled there, the city halted the project.

It is exactly these kinds of situations that have led many cities to carefully create plans for public art.

Goldstein says good plans should seek input from citizens, help delineate the rights of artists and property owners, and identify funding sources.

“If you look at something more as a plan and a system of events and decision points, then you’re more likely to have something that endures and can respond to change,” Goldstein says.

Other Kentucky cities have launched large-scale public art programs. Since 2002, the Owensboro Public Art Commission has put up six outdoor sculptures with money from private donors. In 2000, Lexington held an exhibition of horse sculptures called HorseMania and auctioned them to raise more than $750,000. The money helped establish a public art program now run by LexArts, which is now beginning to surface on city streets.

The whirling of drill a is the sound of LexArts’ Mural Project. On the outside wall of a bar in Lexington’s North Limestone neighborhood, an artist is putting up painted panels for one mural. He worked with the neighborhood association to create it, with its image of a beloved music teacher.

LexArts president Jim Clark who also worked with the New York Public Art Fund says a solid plan often involves anticipating potential conflicts and input from community groups.

“Unless you have an organization that is structured to accommodate public art and keep it going, you will be destined to do these episodic events,” Clark says.

In Louisville, Clark’s ideas and those of Barbara Goldstein are definitely in play, says Meredith Johnson. She is a curator with an organization in New York called Creative Time and the consultant who will lead the development of Louisville’s master plan.

“We really want to make a plan that’s unique and dynamic and internationally renowned that is Louisville specific,” Johnson says.

Among her many tasks, Johnson will hold focus groups with a range of people, including art historians and business owners, and identify funding sources.

And most experts agree that the management of these tasks and communicating with the public will determine if Louisville’s $50,000 is an investment well spent.