The city of Columbus, Ohio, is dedicating $25 million to a redevelopment project on High Street that will eliminate a traffic lane and make the area more pedestrian-friendly. Beyond infrastructure improvements, however, officials want to use the street-level makeover to rethink how they deploy public art around the city.
According to WOSU, Columbus City Council recently approved an $81,000 contract with a local design firm to “create a strategic public art plan,” which could be a first step toward a citywide public art plan.
Despite it’s name, public art isn’t always equitably distributed — or even public, as Jen Kinney wrote for Next City last year. In San Diego, for example, new public art is often funded through what’s called a percent-for-art policy, meaning that a small percentage of costs associated with new public and private development go toward public artworks. Developers can establish new works on-site, but that means areas with hotter markets (and, thus, lots of new development) tend to get more public artworks.
Columbus has been wrestling with similar issues. According to WOSU, the city’s installations haven’t been distributed evenly across the city in the past, primarily because most opportunities have been in downtown. Other entities do fund public art, however, so one of the city’s goals is to make sure that art is distributed equitably.
“Certainly when you go around to neighborhoods, they’re not saying they don’t want art,” Lori Baudro, the city’s public arts coordinator, told the station. “Everybody wants art, and they’re figuring out their own ways to fund it and go about it.”
Amanda Golden of Designing Local (the design firm tasked with creating the strategic plan) told the station that the public outreach will shape the document.
“In order for us to do a plan that is owned and excited and appreciated by the people who live and work and love High Street, we are spending a lot of time on community engagement,” she said.
A series of public meetings began this week and will continue through September.
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.