Public art installations could soon pop up at several locations throughout the city of Napa, now that the City Council has adopted a public art master plan and has saved up about $270,000 in its public art fund.
The city’s new art master plan, approved at last week’s council meeting, is an extension of Napa’s public art ordinance, which was passed in 2010. The original ordinance requires developers to either install art projects or pay a fee to the city’s art fund.
The public art plan prioritizes prime locations throughout the city where art could be installed. It also sets rules and criteria on future art projects for the next five years.
“When we first started talking about a public art ordinance, there was so much pushback from community members who thought of it as an evil art tax,” local artist and Napa Planning Commissioner Gordon Huether said during last week’s council meeting. “But I’m so proud of how far we’ve come, and that we’ve identified specific sites for future art.”
According to the city’s 2010 public art ordinance, developers building large-scale projects within city limits must include an on-site art component that costs at least 1 percent of the development’s total budget. If they do not want to build on-site art, developers must contribute 1 percent of the project’s value to the city’s public art fund.
Cities throughout the state have adopted similar policies in an effort to beautify their communities on a developer’s dime. In Napa, four public art projects have already been installed or are planned, including pieces at the Century Napa Valley movie theater, La Residence inn, the Napa River Inn and the River Park Shopping Center. If developers decide to install their own on-site art, proposals must first be approved by the Planning Commission.
When developers opt to pay a fee to the city, the money is placed into the city’s public art fund and is used on projects that the city chooses. Currently, Napa’s public art fund has a balance of $371,000. About $100,000 from the fund has already been earmarked for art benches, which will eventually line First Street as part of a landscaping project that coincides with the downtown two-way street conversion.
The master plan identified five locations prioritized to receive public art over the next five years. The sites include Dwight Murray Plaza; the downtown corridor along portions of Second, Third and Fourth streets; future roundabouts that will be installed at First and Second along California Boulevard; First Street near Main Street; and Veterans Memorial Park on Main Street.
A list of seven secondary locations that could be prioritized in coming years was also approved and included places like City Hall, the Vine Trail, the First and Third street bridges, and the park-and-ride center at Redwood Road and Solano Avenue.
While the council applauded most of the proposed locations, they stressed the need for appropriate art in places like Veterans Park.
“We need to be explicit that we aren’t just putting public art in the Veterans Park,” Councilwoman Juliana Inman said during last week’s meeting. “It needs to be outside the main part of the park. We shouldn’t be mixing honoring veterans and public art. Somewhere on the peripheral is fine.”
Councilman Scott Sedgley suggested that veterans-themed art could be placed inside the park itself, but agreed that the park’s focus should be honoring veterans.
“I don’t want to exclude art there, but I do want to make sure it’s dedicated to the veterans,” he said.
Meanwhile, Councilman Alfredo Pedroza supported the master plan, but said that Napa should be doing more.
“I look at what other communities are doing and we’re just not there yet,” he said. “I really want to see art in open spaces, where people can interact with it. I like the priorities, but we need to make sure we’re funding this program in a sustainable way.”
One of the issues facing many cities across the state is the cost of maintaining public art. City staff said that art is often chosen based on its materials and longevity, in an effort to prevent it from costing the city a lot of money to maintain in the long run.
“The ongoing maintenance cannot be part of the developer’s fees,” said Rick Tooker, the city’s community development director. “And the in-lieu fees cannot go toward maintaining art. They have to be used to build new art.”
The council also discussed exploring alternative ways to fund public art and programs like the city’s ARTwalk, which features sculptures on display in the downtown area. Councilmembers said that while they wanted to support funding for such activities, they did not believe it was appropriate to dip into the city’s general operating fund to do so at this time.
“We shouldn’t be expanding into a lot of ancillary areas with the money that is set aside to purchase art,” Inman said. “We need some big-dollar installations.”
Sedgley added that allocating money from the city’s general coffers, which was a possible funding mechanism put forth by city staff, shouldn’t be an option right now. “I’m not saying I’m opposed to that, but not until we know the costs,” he said.
The council also debated possibly requiring art installations inside appropriate developments, such as hotels or business parks, and limiting the number of art pieces done by individual artists, but ultimately decided against both suggestions.