The Town of Fountain Hills takes some pride in its public art collection, including 125 pieces plus some on private property on prominent display to the public.
However, with 100 pieces alone spread among Fountain Park, Community Center and Centennial Circle, some are beginning to wonder whether there is a limit. That question is key to a new discussion between town staff and members of the Public Art Committee and the Fountain Hills Civic and Cultural Association (I Love Fountain Hills) about updating the Public Art Guidelines used by the town.
The Town Council heard some of the ideas for updating the policies at a work session in conjunction with its Nov. 5 regular meeting.
“There is a new era for public art [leadership] in Fountain Hills,” said Dori Wittrig (FHCCA) president. “After years of dedicated service, a number of people recently retired from the committee.”
She cited specifically Jerry and Jackie Miles, Jean Linzer and Sandy Thomson, among others.
“They created one of the largest and best public art collections in the country for a town of our size,” Wittrig said.
However, new issues, not the least of which is where to put new art, has led the new leadership to reassess the guidelines used in determining selection and placement of public art.
While all of the town’s public art is privately funded, the town accepts the donation and has the responsibility for insuring what is well over $1 million in value, as well as maintenance. One source of revenue is a public art fund, which is collected based on a fee on commercial development charged by the town. A developer has the option of installing its own public art and contributing to the art fund. Either option is based on the value of 1 percent of the project’s value.
Not only are there fewer commercial projects being done, there is also some confusion over what value the 1 percent is based on – permit value or construction value. Construction value has been used, and Community Services Director Rachael Goodwin noted that developers of larger project are hesitant about that fee. She is suggesting the town consider a cap for that obligation.
Councilman Dennis Brown, a general contractor, agreed with that point of view. Brown noted that it was his impression when the fee was implemented, that it was originally to be based on permit value, but that was not how the ordinance was applied. However, he said he believed a cap would be appropriate. That is to be determined.
Goodwin said that some concerns regarding the process include a need for more input from staff and the council. She has been named to sit on the Public Art Committee and meetings will now include engineering, public works and parks personnel to provide input.
Goodwin said the committee would also consider policy changes regarding a reduced emphasis on acquisition and limit collection growth.
They would also add stricter guidelines regarding donations from private collection. There is a proposal for a maintenance fee for non-developer donations to the collection (5 percent suggested, more if the placement is at Fountain Park, which requires more maintenance).
New guidelines also include terms for decommissioning a piece from the collection to sell, return to the donor or artist.
PAC would also have the ability to recommend relocation of existing pieces with council approval.
The policies will also include terms and conditions for art memorials.
A comprehensive map outlining possible new locations for artwork would be included in the policy. Options include Fountain Park (extremely limited options) and future International Dark Sky Discovery Center and future extension of Centennial Circle to include the “Emerald Walk.”
A draft of the policies is being prepared for future consideration for council adoption.