JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – After months of work, preparation and public hearings, the Leadership Johns Creek Class of 2013 presented its Public Art Master Plan at a City Council workshop, and the informal vote was unanimous. They liked it.
Sponsored by the Johns Creek Chamber of Commerce, the Leadership program has as part of the team-building side of the yearlong commitment for members to create a civic project.
Leadership member Chris Pullaro said they chose the creation of a public art plan because it would give the city a municipal image to the citizens and the world at large as well as create “neighborhood identities” through the integration of art and existing architecture.
In short, public art instills a civic identity to residents and visitors. That makes it a more attractive place to live and encourages businesses and new residents that this would be a nice town in which to move.
Another reason the City Council likes the master plan is that all of the art would be placed on city property and rights of way. Then all works of art would become city property. Finally, the art would be funded by private and corporate donations. That part the City Council really liked.
“There is a lot of upside with public art and almost no downside,” Pullaro said.
People who turned out for two public forums – one at Newtown Park and one at Emory Johns Creek – had enthusiastic responses. Through the month of April, the master plan will be online at the city’s website for public review. At the May 6 City Council meeting, the plan will be formally adopted. That plan includes:
• The master plan calls for the appointment of a public art committee consisting of five members with final oversight by the City Council.
• Creation of five community outreach panels each chaired by one of the public art committee members. Each of the five community panels would represent a major public art discipline: sculpture, murals, mosaics and miscellaneous – those works that do not fit tidily in the first four categories.
• The community panels would then make recommendations to the whole public art committee.
• The art committee would then pass on its selections to the City Council, which has final say in the selections.
Art that is selected and placed on city property would be maintained by the city. That expense is expected to be nominal.
Among the guidelines supported by the public hearings were a preference for traditional works and themes such as bronze statues. Contemporary art with clean lines was also high on the list.
On the ban lists were any corporate logos, profanity or nudity.
It would be the task of the outreach panels to survey their areas such as schools and neighborhoods for locations for public art.
“But always, the ultimate discretion would belong to the City Council,” said Pullaro. “There is no financial impact to the city unless the council decides to take action.”
There are some cities that are proactive in funding public art. The city of Suwanee has a 1 percent development fee on new construction that goes for the public art fund, Pullaro said.
Councilman Ivan Figueroa said a provision should be made for artists to loan their art.
“We should put some language in the ordinance to allow some wiggle room for that,” he said. “And I like the idea of creating a sense of place. But the council can focus on only so many things. So the public art board is the perfect vehicle to approach this.”
Councilwoman Karen Richardson said she loved the plan.
“It’s a great basis to allow public art to flourish,” she said. “But we are not locked into anything either.”
Suggested locations for public art have been in the city parks and in the city’s road rights of way.
“We’ve had hundreds of suggestions already,” Pullaro said.
Councilwoman Bev Miller said, “This sends a message that Johns Creek is open for business.”
Fundraising can come from a number of areas. Once the public art board becomes a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, it can accept corporate donations and government grants to fund the purchase of art.
As for how the art will be selected, Mayor Mike Bodker suggested they leave it to the public art board to come up with a plan.