Public arts policy, arts board considered for city of Aspen |

Public arts policy, arts board considered for city of Aspen

The nail bear in the Hyman Avenue pedestrian mall is one of multiple public art displays in Aspen. The city is considering the creation of an arts commission that would oversee public art displays.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times |

The city of Aspen already has boards that focus on housing, open space, historic preservation, planning and zoning, liquor and marijuana, the Wheeler Opera House and other concerns. Next up could be a public arts commission.

At a City Council work session Tuesday, Parks and Recreation Manager Jeff Woods made the case for the creation of an arts commission as well as a policy concerning public art displays.

Several times a year the city fields requests from donors seeking to set up public art displays, and a policy would help address the matter with more efficiency and clarity, Woods said.

“Everyone has different viewpoints of what is art and what is not,” Woods told the council. “We just want to have a policy — how art is chosen, how it timelines, how do we get rid of it when we don’t need it any more.”

As it stands, a donor wanting to provide a public display to the city must go before the City Council for approval. Art displays are located in the Hyman Mall as well as on streets and in parks. Some displays have been up for more than a decade, and Woods, without identifying any of them, suggested they might have run their course.

Council members said as a board they don’t want to take a plunge into the arena of subjectivity by determining which artwork would be appropriate public displays.

“I don’t think the people up here should be making the decisions,” said Councilman Adam Frisch.

A policy would require the city to hold art donors to a contract saying how long the art would be in place, who would pay for its maintenance and who would be responsible for taking it down.

A public arts commission, whose members would be appointed by the council, would decide what art displays would be appropriate for certain locations throughout town.

The formation of a commission gave Councilman Bert Myrin some pause; he worried that such a board would have a difficult time agreeing on anything.

Councilwoman Ann Mullins, however, said a commission could work.

“If you really tightened up the policy, identify the locations (for public art), and have a group of three to five people who are knowledgeable about … art, we could trust them in partnering with parks to choose good pieces of art.”

She added, “Again, if you don’t like it, you don’t like it. But there are probably 50 other people out there who think it’s terrific.”

In a memo to City Council, Parks Office Manager Teresa Hackbarth and Parks and Open Space Director Tom Rubel reported that a policy would “help enhance public art throughout the city, streamlining the process for determining which art is most appropriate for each space, provide support systems for local artists and celebrate Aspen’s unique character, history and vitality through a range of donated art projects.”

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