Fort Worth begins review of public art approved by voters in May

By Scott Nishimura

City officials are beginning their review of a draft plan for $3.6 million in public art that voters approved in May’s Fort Worth bond program.

The largest single piece – $1.67 million – would go towards an “iconic public artwork” to be built in a public-private partnership in the central city, the idea to be developed with “citywide community involvement.”

The draft plan proposes public art attached to 16 street, transportation, parks and recreation, library, fire, municipal court, municipal service facility, and animal care and control projects approved in the bond program.

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“This plan is a draft, and we’re happy to meet individually with each council member to go over the components” and get feedback, Greg Ibanez, chairman of the Fort Worth Art Commission, which endorsed the draft plan a week ago, told City Council members Tuesday.

The city’s public art program has been often controversial, with council members paring the percentage devoted to it in the 2014 bond program from previous capital programs. Council members vote on the public art plans and expenditures, but in the debate over the 2014 bond program, some council members criticized projects that past councils had approved. And earlier this year, controversy erupted again, when the estimated costs of installing “Tabachin Ribbon,” a sculpture donated from exhibit in Chicago, ballooned.

The Arts Council of Fort Worth manages the public art program, with oversight by the Art Commission.

“Obviously, (the draft plan) is a first step in the process, and we’ll be looking forward to it as you put mean on the bone,” Mayor Pro Tem W.B. “Zim” Zimmerman told Ibanez Tuesday.

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Council members raised a few questions Tuesday.

Councilman Jungus Jordan, who proposed eliminating the public art expenditure and redistributing the money to transportation and parks in the $292 million bond program, questioned why there was no public art piece attached to the Chisholm Trail park piece in the package. The park is in Jordan’s district.

“I was pretty vocal” about the public art expenditure, Jordan said in an interview Tuesday. “I hope that’s not the reason my park is being shorted.”

“We need the input,” Ibanez told Jordan during the Tuesday presentation.

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Other proposed pieces in the draft plan:

* Pedestrian improvements in two of the city’s urban villages to be chosen in a process led by the Planning Department, $160,000 total. * Transit-oriented development, $350,000. Use of lights in an artwork in the South Main Street Tunnel, helping connect downtown to the Near Southside urban village. * Northwest Community Park, artwork related to trail overlook to Walnut Lake. The section of the city has a dearth of public art projects, Ibanez said. “We think this is important,” Ibanez said. * Heritage Park, public art piece with revitalization of downtown Fort Worth park, $240,000. Downtown Fort Worth, inc. and other partners are leading the plan to revamp the park. “We think public art can help leverage that,” Ibanez said. * Como Community Center, $106,000. Art to follow Lake Como Public Art Master Plan. * Eugene McCray Community Center, $60,200. Work likely to be done by an emerging public artist. * Handley-Meadowbrook Community Center, $60,200. Also likely to be done by an emerging artist. * Eastside Library, East Lancaster and Oakland. $65,000. Work to follow East Lancaster Corridor Public Art Plan. * Far North Library, $183,000. Artwork to be commissioned in line with city’s library public art plan. * Fire Station 42, $91,050. Work to be commissioned with artist Tierney Malone. * Fire Station 43, $91,050. * Downtown Public Safety and Municipal Court Building renovation, $30,000. Artwork for the lobby. More funds from the city’s Public Art Fund may be necessary for the project, Ibanez told the council. * City field operations service facility, way finding landmark for drop off center, $95,700. * Municipal vehicle maintenance facility, Holly Treatment Water Plant, $200,000. * North animal control facility, $48,100.

The Art Commission will hold public hearings Aug. 11 at the Hazel Harvey Peace Center for Neighborhoods and Sept. 8 at the Northwest Branch Library. The council is tentatively scheduled to vote on the final plan Oct. 7. Implementation of the projects is envisioned for 2015-2019, Ibanez said.