Public Art Advisory Committee works on strategic plan after receiving increased funding

The Iowa City City Council doubled funding to the public-art program in the fiscal 2020 budget. The Public Art Advisory Committee is creating a strategic plan to show how the funds will be used.


Charles Peckman

One of many public murals in Iowa City is seen on March 7.

Caleb McCullough, News Reporter

The Iowa City Public Art Advisory Committee will hold a public input meeting on March 8, hoping to gain insight on the direction of public art in the city.

The meeting is part of the committee’s process to create a strategic plan for implementing public art in the community in response to increased funding from the city in the fiscal 2020 budget, Iowa City neighborhood-outreach coordinator Marcia Bollinger said.

After speaking with members of the Public Art Advisory Committee, Iowa City Downtown District’s public-art director Thomas Agran gave a presentation to the City Council requesting increased funding for public art from $25,000 to $145,000. 

Funding for the Public Art Advisory Committee has decreased dramatically since the program’s inception in 1999, Bollinger said. The program began with $100,000 in funding in 1999; at its lowest, the funding was $1,400.

RELATED: City reviews proposed budget for upcoming fiscal year

In a Jan. 8 City Council work session, the city councilors decided to increase funding for the committee to $50,000 in fiscal 2020. The council requested that the committee craft a strategic plan to show the council how the money would be used.

“I have the confidence as of right now that we could do a $25,000 increase,” Councilor Rockne Cole said at the work session. “They can make a plan, and maybe we can modify it at another point, but I think for me they’ve made their case.”

The committee hopes to hear from community members about what types of art they’d like to see in Iowa City. Bollinger said performance art and event art have been more popular in the past years.

“What we’re seeing over the progression of years is that public art has come to take different forms,” Bollinger said. “It’s not just the statues you see on the Ped Mall.” 

Bollinger said the committee is hoping to implement more performance art, theater, and event art into its public-art initiatives.

Another focus of the meeting will be on the location of public art in the city. Vero Smith, the chair of the Public Art Advisory Committee, said much of the public art in Iowa City is concentrated in the Downtown District, and the committee hopes to expand art into other places in Iowa City. 

“One of my biggest hopes is that we’ll get more art in neighborhoods,” she said.

Bollinger said the input from the March 8 meeting will go into drafting the strategic plan. The plan won’t have specific art programs and installations laid out but will provide direction for the committee.

“It needs to be more of a five-year plan in terms of how the Public Art Advisory Committee should be reviewing applications for the program, as well as designating how the funds are spent,” Bollinger said.

Smith said the strategic plan will also detail the economic benefit of public art. She said public encourages more people to engage with the community and encourages more people to live there. 

“We know that in the state of Iowa, every single dollar put into public art initiatives yields a $3 return on that investment,” Smith said. 

A second public meeting will be held on May 15, and Bollinger said the committee will likely have a draft to present to the public. The committee plans to present its strategic plan to the City Council in June.