Editor's note: This is a response to a letter critical of a proposal for art in the new downtown roundabouts, which is printed on the same page as this letter.

The online version can be found here.

On Sept. 24, the Public Art Steering Committee began the initial process of discussing general criteria and concepts for a public art installation at a predetermined site on the side of the First Street and California Street roundabout. Staff would like to make a few clarifications about the project as described in the Napa Register article on Sept. 29.

The funds budgeted for this project will utilize the Public Art Fund. This fund was created in conjunction with the City’s Public Art Ordinance that requires commercial developers to dedicate 1% of the project construction costs to public art on their site or to pay the 1% into the Public Art Fund.

This fund is used to support permanent public art throughout the community and not allowed to be used for other projects in the city such as sidewalk repairs, street resurfacing, etc.

Additionally, in collaboration with the community, the City of Napa created a Public Art Master Plan in 2014 to help identify goals and priorities for the Public Art Fund. Gateways and roundabouts were identified in the plan as a top priority to enhance the character of Napa and further develop our community’s identity.

The budget of $350,000 is a placeholder for the project and includes artist fees, construction and installation of the artwork, and any associated project planning costs.

So, why public art at all? Americans For the Arts states it best: “Art in public spaces has played a distinguishing role in our country’s history and culture. It reflects and reveals our society, enhances meaning in our civic spaces, and adds uniqueness to our communities. Public art humanizes the built environment. It provides an intersection between past, present, and future; between disciplines and ideas. Public art matters because our communities gain cultural, social, and economic value through public art.”

Lastly, public safety is always the city of Napa’s top priority. Roundabouts in and of themselves are statistically proven to improve safety for drivers. According to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, roundabouts reduced injury crashes by 75% at intersections where stop signs or signals were previously used for traffic control and provided a 90% reduction in fatality collisions.

The intent of the public art is not to add to the potential distractions for modern day drivers but to enhance the community’s aesthetic and character. Thousands of communities throughout the country and world have added public art either inside or near roundabouts and there have not been any findings linking additional accidents to these public art installations.

Nevertheless, staff will continue to evaluate and ensure that the selected art installation will be carefully designed and take into consideration the proximity to the roadway.

Katrina Gregory, Recreation & Public Art Manager

City of Napa

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