Jan. 18, 2017 By Hannah Wulkan
The City Council passed a legislation package that overhauls the Percent for Art program, creating more transparency and accountability to the community during the process of commissioning a piece of public art.
The legislation, sponsored by the head of the Cultural Affairs Committee and local Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, increases funds allocated to public art installations, encourages diversity in the artists commissioned for the projects and gives the community greater input in the process. The mayor is expected to sign the bills into law.
“These pieces of legislation will bring more transparency and accountability to the public art process and strengthen the programs that help make our city the cultural capital of the world,” Van Bramer said. “New York City is better with more public art, more ambitious public art, and public art in every neighborhood. That is what this package will accomplish,” he added.
The legislation package contains six separate bills, four of which focus specifically on the Percent for Art program, under which a large pink sculpture was installed on Jackson Avenue earlier this year.
The bills focusing on the Percent for Art program would require that the panel deciding on Percent for Art commissions include representatives from the office of the Borough President, Community Board, and Council Member in whose district the project is located.
It would also require the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) to collect demographic data on the artists receiving commissions to encourage diversity and would require more outreach encouraging artists to apply for the program in the seven most common languages in New York City.
Finally, the legislation raises the cap on each Percent for Art project from $400,000 to $900,000 for projects under a certain threshold, and from $1.5 million to $4 million for projects over that threshold.
The other two bills in the package require reports from the Arts Commission and the Cultural Institutions groups to increase transparency.
The new legislation comes on the heels of controversy surrounding the new Percent for Art installation in Long Island City, a massive pink figure on Jackson Avenue by Brooklyn-based artist Ohad Meromi.
The LIC Post broke the story of the $515,000, 8 ½ foot sculpture in 2014, which came as a shock to many community members after minimal community involvement in the decision process.
A three-person panel that was comprised of a member from Socrates Sculpture Park, Sculpture Center and a local artist selected the commission without input from Community Board 2 or the public.
The sculpture remained a contentious topic in the community up until it was installed late last year and beyond, with Van Bramer receiving calls demanding it be taken down almost immediately.
The new legislation will require more transparency and community involvement in the decision-making process, aiming to avoid similar controversies in the future.