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VOL. 118 | NO. 118 | Friday, July 2, 2004

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Elizabeth alley

City Seeks Artwork for Public Buildings


The Daily News

Through funds set aside for construction projects, Memphis is looking to purchase a variety of art directly from artists who want to have their work displayed in city-owned buildings.

Call to artists. UrbanArt Commission project manager Elizabeth Alley said the city has sent out a call for artists to submit work that will be placed in buildings such as City Hall, library branches and city division headquarters. Funds to purchase the art have been made available through the citys percent for art legislation, passed in March 2002 to dedicate a permanent source of revenue for art enhancement projects through the citys capital improvement project funds.

Collaborative effort. The UrbanArt Commission, established in 1997 through a collaboration of the Greater Memphis Arts Council and Shelby County government, receives operating funds from the city and is working through city government to purchase the artwork.

We really did this to give more artists an opportunity to participate in the percent for art program, because a lot of artists do their own studio work and arent interested in kind of changing it into permanent materials to be part of a construction project, Alley said.

City property. She said the new initiative is part of the groups overall goal of overseeing the public art program for the city.

We basically have funds set aside for the purchase of artwork by local artists, Alley said. That art will then be permanently situated on city property, either in buildings or city parks.

The citys percent for art legislation allocates 1 percent of the total general obligation bond amount included in the CIP budget for artwork. For its current project, the UrbanArt Commission isnt looking to purchase a specific number of pieces. It has budgeted $60,000 for the venture, representing two years worth of funds set aside for the direct purchase program.

Designed to move. Artists are encouraged to send paintings and other pieces, which wont necessarily become permanent fixtures in specific buildings.

Were looking for artwork done in the artists studio, such as paintings, prints and drawings not really anything permanent, Alley said. A lot of things weve done before become a permanent part of a building or are mounted in such a way that they become permanent. The pieces wed like to get now, though, would be owned by the city, and we might move them around.

First time. At this point, Alley added, the group has issued a call to artists, with the due date set for the end of July. She said its the first time the group has sought to purchase artwork directly from artists.

We havent really done anything like this in the past, though its been prevalent in a few other cities, Alley said. Seattle, for instance, has a long history of purchasing art directly from artists.

Until now, the group had commissioned work from artists for specific projects.

The Collierville library is a good example of that, in that we had an artist come up with a sculpture specifically for the building, Alley said. Beyond that, there are probably a dozen other projects were currently working on within the city. Many of those items, though, were donated by collectors or commissioned.

Other initiatives. In addition to the general request for artwork for city buildings, the UrbanArt Commission is commissioning public artwork for two new police precincts to help instill a sense of pride in local police and to connect the precinct with the surrounding community.

The UrbanArt Commission and the city of Memphis have announced art enhancement projects for the planned West and Hickory Hill police precincts. The West Precinct will be built near Lamar Avenue and Crump Boulevard, and the Hickory Hill Precinct will be built near Winchester and Ridgeway roads.

A meeting for prospective artist participants was held at the Central Precinct June 25.

For now, artists who want to participate in the commissions direct-purchase program have a variety of options.

We have a call to artists that gives all of the guidelines, Alley said. They can either call us and get them or visit our Web site.

Completed projects. Since 1997, the group has led more than $3.5 million in art enhancement projects for facilities including city and county school buildings. Past projects the UrbanArt Commission has been involved with include the Collierville Library Storytime Room, in which the library partnered with the group to commission an artist who provided a variety of painted panels for the room.

The UrbanArt Commission also worked to coordinate art enhancements for the Downtown Elementary School, as well as the 96-year-old Cooper-Young railroad trestle. In addition, the group worked with the Center City Commission and citizens to design a master plan for lighting Downtown Memphis.

The nonprofit commission is funded by the city, the Memphis Arts Council and the Tennessee Arts Commission. According to the commission, the city has dedicated $450,000 to $1 million each year for art projects through the percent for art program.


MORTGAGES 70 240 986
BUILDING PERMITS 180 470 2,128