Council approves Public Arts Fund

Susan Kantor

Susan Kantor

By Eric Heisig

The Public Arts Fund for the new Public Arts Commission was the lone budget item in heavy contention at Monday’s Urbana City Council meeting. The Council unanimously approved its budget for the fiscal year 2008-09, effectively adding an amendment to set up the fund.

The fund itself has its total expenditures set at $134,670, $20,000 less than the amount that Ward 2 Council member Danielle Chynoweth had proposed.

Still, Chynoweth said she was content that the Council made a unanimous decision.

“I am pleased we had a unanimous decision to fund the public arts with public funds,” Chynoweth said.

The Public Arts Fund will get $20,000 worth of revenue from the city’s general fund, with the plan’s expenditures being set at $64,000, including $5,000 for grants and transferring $15,000 over from the artwork project slated for Philo Road. Revenues from private donations were cut out because there is no guarantee those will come in.

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Even though an agreement was reached, Chynoweth’s opinions were met with opposition during Council discussions, especially from Mayor Laurel Prussing.

“This is just the beginning of the process,” Prussing said. “People are under the impression that we have no money for the public arts, and that is just not true. If we set up the infrastructure, people will donate to it.”

During discussions, Prussing brought up the idea of leasing art, like sculptures in Meadowbrook Park. She said the art is out there for display, and the artist gets some money while it is displayed to help sell it.

“I think the city could use the same approach,” Prussing said.

Chynoweth said that the fund, as it was set up, would only set up the commission, adding it did not fund any of the actual art.

During the meeting, concerned citizens came forward to express their support for more arts funding.

“I am disappointed in the way the arts have been characterized,” said Chris Evans, Urbana resident and building coordinator for the Independent Media Company. “I thought we were going to be looking at revenue streams for projects.”

Others said they are proud of the art the city of Urbana has to offer, and they want it to continue.

“When people come to visit me, they want to see something artistic,” said resident Barbara Kessel.

Many people present at the meeting compared not having anything to actually fund the arts is basically forcing the Public Arts Commission to have a “bake sale” to fund any art projects. Still, Prussing said that was not what they were trying to do.

Even though the Council came to a decision, Chynoweth said she feels that what the Public Arts Fund received should just be the beginning, and she wants it to grow in the near future.

“We should be spending about twice that,” she said.

The Council also said they would revisit the Public Arts Fund, in addition to the budget, in six months.