Mckinney Courier-gazette > News
McKinney public art master plan presented to council, up for approval March 19
McKinney is on the brink of putting its Public Art Master Plan into action.
The McKinney Arts Commission (MAC), which advises the City Council on how to distribute city funding allocated for art programs, last week presented its plan to the council. The plan includes recommendations and cost estimates for 17 projects around the city.
"The plan is not a perfect plan, but it's a plan that's been developed from lots of community input and collaboration across departments on how we think this will impact the city," said Aretha Adams, assistant to the city manager and city liaison to the arts commission.
Meridith McKinley, a consultant with Via Partnership, which helped develop a similar public art plan for Frisco in recent years, went through the parameters and administrative guidelines suggested in McKinney's plan. Purposes of the plan include giving strategic focus to acquiring and commissioning public art, building on current efforts for quality design in all areas of the city, and sparking interest in and giving a voice to the city's public art program.
The plan states that the first few projects the MAC will pursue "have been chosen carefully in regard to their accessibility to the public, the positive impact they can have, their feasibility and their potential ability to attract funding support from the broader community."
Near-term projects identified are alleyscapes and a Towne Lake recreation area sculpture trail. Alleyscapes would feature murals between historic downtown parking areas and retail blocks so to "enhance the experience of using the alleys, making them feel more intentional and inviting," as stated in last week's presentation, a summary of the plan. The plan estimates each mural would cost up to $20,000, not including costs to repair and/or maintain the wall on which it's added.
A sculpture trail, which McKinley said could provide "a new reason" for people to visit Towne Lake Park and "visual reference points" that draw them through it, would be coordinated with the city's floodplain manager and engineering department because a segment is in a 100-year floodway, the plan states. It calls for trail artwork to be along portions that wouldn't get in the way of joggers and other trail users. Consultants estimate that each art piece on the trail could cost between $50,000 and $100,000.
Budget estimates are based on analysis of comparable art projects in other communities, McKinley told the City Council, adding that funds would be raised by the McKinney Arts Commission, but that a limited amount of funds from the commission's annual allocation may be needed at times. The City Council would need to approve such use of the allocations prior to the beginning of their intended project.
The city of Frisco adopted its public art plan in December 2004, a few years after it adopted a public ordinance committing 2 percent of capital funds to commissioning public art in civic projects. Following public workshops and a consulting process similar to that in McKinney, Via Partnerships continued to work with Allen through 2007 to help manage the commissioning of 20 public art works valued at roughly $2.6 million, according to Via's website.
Like its western neighbor, McKinney held a workshop to gather public insight into what kind of art they wanted and where. City staff and MAC members met regularly with an advisory committee and led a tour of public art in Allen and Frisco, before drafting the plan in recent months.
"I'm very excited about the approach that we took in coming up with this plan," Linda Spina, MAC chair, told the council. "This is something that's truly unique to our city [and] I don't believe we would have ended up with the same end results had we not had the guidance of the consultants."
In fall 2012, the City Council approved $12,000 in its budget for the MAC's public art program, money only to be spent if the commission raised that much in matching funds. Spina told the council last week the commission already has verbal commitments to match the $12,000; but, Adams said there is "no hard money yet."
The MAC is in the running for a grant from Mid-America Arts Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to stimulating cultural improvement in several states including Texas. The grant would provide the necessary components for the plan's intended first project -- an alleyscape mural.
"We haven't heard about the finalists [for the grant], but if we do, that's the project that floats to the top," Adams said.
Mid-term projects of the McKinney plan -- identified that way because of greater cost and complexity -- include visual enhancements and additions at the Highway 5 gateway, and at Gabe Nesbitt and Bonnie Wenk parks.
Long-term projects, which the plan says would do the same at the Virginia Parkway/Louisiana Street gateway among other spots, are each estimated to cost between $75,000 and $200,000.
The city will maintain ensuing public artwork through MAC funds allotted by council for the public art program. "It is our intent that any new artwork that comes online after the implementation of this plan will be maintained by funds from the public art fund, as not to put a burden on the general fund," Adams said.
Mayor Brian Loughmiller expressed concern that the MAC could soon ask for a greater percentage of MAC funds to be allocated for public art. "Let's not lose sight of what the original purpose of the arts commission was -- to provide funding for educational opportunities, funding programs, things in the community," he said.
City staff and MAC members are integrating the plan's administrative guidelines with the public art program approved by the council last year. They'll spend the next few weeks determining a percentage cap on the amount of MAC funds that can be spent on public art, Adams said, adding that no matter the percentage, the commission will need private fundraising and alternative funding sources for the plan to materialize.
The final plan will go before the council for approval March 19.
"The great cities in the world share something in common, and it's a passion around art and the arts," Councilman David Brooks said last week. "It's a quality of life issue, so I am strongly in favor of public art, of us spending prudently on public art."