May 17, 2015 By Jackie Strawbridge
The city council unanimously passed a bill Thursday that will provide residents with more say before certain pieces of public art are installed.
The bill was introduced by Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer earlier this year just months after it was revealed that an 8 ½ foot tall, bright pink sculpture—called the Sunbather—was planned to be permanently placed on the median at Jackson and 43rd Avenues.
At the time, the community board and residents were blindsided that the $515,000 artwork was coming, leading to a great deal of rancor–particularly over its color. Many referred to the artwork as the “pink panther” or “pink bubble gum.”
The artwork is still in the design phase and still remains on track to being installed at the Jackson Ave./43rd Ave location.
Van Bramer’s bill, if signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio, would amend the Department of Cultural Affairs’ Percent for Art Program, which was borne out of a 1982 law that requires that one percent of the budget for city-funded construction projects be spent on artwork.
The new bill requires the Department of Cultural affairs to notify the public via its website of its intention to install a piece of public art as part of the Percent for Art program.
The initial stages of the selection process remain unchanged–where a panel of citywide and local art experts accompanied by various agency representatives choose from a list of artists.
However, a subsequent public meeting is now required allowing residents to speak with the panel’s recommended artists about their concepts, according to a spokesman for Van Bramer’s office. DCLA representatives will attend the meetings to take notes.
The bill also requires advance notification of these meetings, including online postings.
“My bill aims to enhance the Percent for Art program by giving New Yorkers the ability to have a greater role in selecting public art projects,” Van Bramer said in a statement.
“The arts have played a tremendous role in shaping New York City. With the passage of this bill and mandating public hearings on Percent for Art projects, we will solidify our city’s presence as the cultural mecca of the world.”
At a Cultural Town Hall held with Van Bramer at MoMA PS1 in March, Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl contemplated the difficulty of identifying the “right amount of [public] input,” and striking a balance between an artist’s vision and community consensus.
In a statement released on Friday, however, he spoke confidently about partnership between residents and artists.
“When I was director of [Percent for Art] in the 1990s, I saw the incredible value that close collaboration with residents and stakeholders brings to this process,” Finkelpearl said.
LIC Post broke the story with the following: