City Moves to Save Its Public Art

At tomorrow’s Cultural Affairs Commission meeting, commissioners will vote on allocating funds to study the needs of the collection and possibly hiring a conservation manager to implement that review.

Francis Bagley and Tom Orr, "Wildlife Water Theater," 2001 (night view) 43 steel poles, 20 polycarbonate light poles, 15 floating fiberglass disks, 10 cast stone land elements, 12 aluminum educational wildlife charts, 1 solar system. Courtesy of the artist.
Francis Bagley and Tom Orr, “Wildlife Water Theater,” 2001 (night view) 43 steel poles, 20 polycarbonate light poles, 15 floating fiberglass disks, 10 cast stone land elements, 12 aluminum educational wildlife charts, 1 solar system. Courtesy of the artist.

Back in March, I wrote about a piece of public art at White Rock Lake that the Office of Cultural Affairs wanted to remove because the work had deteriorated over the years. Once a popular attraction on the lake, the city didn’t have the money to maintain and repair Frances Bagley and Tom Orr’s Water Theater. In fact, the city doesn’t have funds to maintain and repair any of the public work in its collection. Rather than let it continue to deteriorate and become an eyesore, the city thought it would simply pull it out of the lake.

Not so fast. The arts community struck back, and the issue got a lot of attention. That got the attention of members of the Cultural Affairs Commission, which is now taking some early steps to figure out how to take care of the public art it commissions. At tomorrow’s Cultural Affairs Commission meeting, commissioners will vote on allocating funds to study the needs of the collection and possibly hiring a conservation manager to implement that review.

The move makes sense. The percent for art ordinance requires municipal capital projects to dedicate funds for the commissioning of art, so the city should have a way to maintain the pieces it commissions. As I’ve argued in the past, it’s not the only change that needs to happen with how this city handles its public art program, but it’s a positive step in the right direction.

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