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Subcommittee kicks off work on possible overarching public art policy


In an effort to provide more guidance and combine all public art elements into one ordinance, officials are working on a draft overarching policy that would cover more than what’s currently described in city code.

After a discussion and unanimous vote on Monday (May 10), the Arts Commission public art subcommittee will begin to look into the idea, which aims to include updates and revisions, as well as establish standards for public art.

The 5-0 vote directed the subcommittee to return to a future Arts Commission meeting with a recommendation that includes guidelines for a draft request for proposals for consultant services with expertise in the field of public art.

If the Arts Commission approves the recommendation, it will proceed to City Council, likely in early summer. The public will be welcome to participate in the conversation at the Arts Commission and/or City Council meetings. 

The new ordinance will update policies regarding Art in Public Places and murals, as well as adding guidelines for acquisition, donation, and other public art. The intent would be to combine all public art elements into one ordinance, Cultural Arts Manager Sian Poeschl confirmed in an email to Stu News Laguna on Wednesday.

Subcommittee Life Force

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

“Life Force” by Dora De Larios at the Montage

“I think it would be very beneficial to really have an arts ordinance that encompasses all of them in one place,” Poeschl said during the meeting.

Poeschl presented the item on Monday and asked the Commission if this is something they would want to undertake in the next year or so. There was broad support for the idea from commissioners.

“I think it’s an excellent idea,” Commissioner Michael Ervin said, echoing the general consensus of his colleagues.

It’s important to get this done, Ervin said. Others agreed that the city is in need of an all-encompassing arts ordinance. 

“This is one of the most pressing bodies of work for the Arts Commission,” Chair Adam Schwerner said. 

With support from staff like Poeschl, the Commission has created some “fantastic documents that guide us,” Schwerner said. Those guidelines are referred to often in their work and they help direct decisions as they move forward, he said.

“We need this piece of work,” said Schwerner, who added that he’s dealt with “wimpy” guidelines elsewhere. “We don’t want to be stuck in the middle (of that type of situation).”

Currently, murals and Art in Public Places are the only two topics in the city code that provide direction on art in the city. There isn’t anything that really helps with acquisition, donation, or other kinds of public art, Poeschl said.

“We have very outdated information regarding Art in Public Places and murals,” she said. Art in Public Places was adopted into the code in 1986. “Although it’s very streamlined and simple, it’s not necessarily specifically user-friendly or encouraging of the process. I think it’s well overdue.”

Additionally, those two items are in different sections, she added. Murals are under sign regulations within the zoning section and Art in Public Places is in general provisions.

Subcommittee FaithXLVII

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Mural by Faith XLVII’s in the canyon at The Hive

Even while following the code, when murals have come before the Arts Commission there hasn’t always been clarity on certain issues. Additional information or guidance would be helpful during the review process, Poeschl said. 

“It would seem like a great opportunity to fix some of the holes,” Poeschl said. 

This is a complex project that will likely require some outside expert help, she said.

“This is such a large, encompassing project, (it would be beneficial) to really seek out the skills of a consulting company to assist us in writing a whole new ordinance, as it relates to best practices in public art,” Poeschl said.

There are some funds in the budget to work with, she added. About $38,000 is available in savings from the general fund and the Business Improvement District, which was carried over from a few years ago to be used for a consulting project, Poeschl explained. 

It may not cost that much, she added. They first need to put out a request for proposals and then compare companies and costs.

It’s a project worth undertaking, said Commission Treasurer Suzi Chauvel. They have been dealing with some new territory lately, particularly in acquisitions and donations, she said.

“I don’t believe we have that as updated as we would like it to be,” she said. “I think it’s very important that we get this settled down a little bit.”

The code is old, a lot has changed since it was written, and there are funds available, Chauvel summarized.

“I think we should definitely proceed,” she said.


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