News Column

Santa Rosa updating its plan for public art

June 15, 2014

By Kevin McCallum, The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, Calif.

June 15--A plan being drafting to guide Santa Rosa's public art program identifies 11 areas in the city where art should be focused and also suggests changes to improve the quality of art projects installed in commercial developments.

Those are two of the highlights of the draft Santa Rosa Public Art Master Plan, which gets its first public review Tuesday at a special meeting of the city's Art in Public Places Committee.

The heart of the plan is 11 "Work Zones" that have been identified as prime areas for public art, said Tara Thompson, the city's arts coordinator.

"This is really coming from the people of Santa Rosa who responded to all our outreach efforts," Thompson said.

Unlike some master plans that identify precise locations for public works of art such as sculptures, Santa Rosa's plan is meant to be more flexible and include themes as well as locations, Thompson said.

The proposed zones include: downtown streetscapes and art districts, Old Courthouse Square, the Sonoma County Museum, future SMART rail stations, the Prince Memorial Greenway, creeks and trails, parking garages, parks, Santa Rosa High School, downtown underpasses, the future Southeast Greenway and bicycling-related art projects.

Todd Bressi, a Pennsylvania-based public art consultant, has been working on the plan for about a year. He was hired in part through a $50,000National Endowment for the Arts grant the city won in 2012, and has met on several occasions with city staff, community groups and members of the pubic as well as the Art in Public Places Committee.

In addition to the work zones, the draft report proposes changes to improve the process by which public art is incorporated into private developments.

The city's 2006 Public Art in Private Development Ordinance requires commercial developments over $500,000 to spend 1 percent of the project's construction budget on public art or pay a fee to the city equal to that amount. The process meant to ensure that developers incorporate quality public art into their projects hasn't always been a smooth one, however.

Last year former Art in Public Places Committee member Judy Kennedy lambasted an art installation of children and deer sculptures outside the new Boudin SF restaurant in Montgomery Village, calling it unoriginal and "schlock."

Questions also have been raised by committee members about whether the imprinted concrete installed in front of the Whole Foods Market at Coddingtown is sufficiently visible, Thompson said.

"While that meets all the criteria, it doesn't have the impact some were hoping," she said.

The plan proposes clearer guidelines for artists and the concept review process to make sure the goals of the city and the developer are met, she said.

The meeting takes place at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Steele Lane Community Center.

(Staff Writer Kevin McCallum can be reached at 521-5207 or at Twitter @citybeater.)


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Source: Press Democrat, The (Santa Rosa, CA)