The Raleigh City Council is likely to approve on Tuesday a resolution that would allocate money towards creating public art in the city. The program being proposed is similar to what many other cities across the country have adopted.
It's worth noting how this funding mechanism would be different from what Raleigh currently spends on art. Raleigh does allocate money towards the arts, just not specifically to creating public art. The city allocates $4.50 per resident towards the budget of the city's Arts Commission. This year that budget totals about $1.65 million (Raleigh's population being 367,995), but about 85 percent of that money is disbursed as grants to nonprofit art groups in the city. Very little, if any, is spent on actually creating public art.
The Arts Commission's proposal to create a percentage-for-art ordinance in Raleigh also calls for a full-time Public Art Program Administrator position to be created. This person would run the program. City Manager Russell Allen said this week that the salary for this position would have to come out of the Arts Commission's existing budget. Raleigh has had a soft hiring freeze in place since July and is only filling positions related to public safety.
A few readers have contacted me raising issues with the percentage-for-art program. One caller called it inappropriate for Raleigh to be adopting something like this given the economic uncertainty about the next six months to a year. Another caller said he supported the program, but was concerned that local artists would not be hired and used on these projects. There will be no stable of artists designated to work on these projects, so only time will tell how many of the jobs go to locals.