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Tarpon Springs gives nod to art ordinance

Commissioners agree: Public art makes a city a more pleasant place to live.

Published July 20, 2007


TARPON SPRINGS - Tarpon Springs just got a lot more art-friendly.

On Tuesday night, city commissioners approved the city's first public art ordinance. The policy mandates that the city and private developers contribute a percentage of new development budgets toward the purchase of public art.

The art can be paintings, sculptures or designs integral to the construction of buildings. Think floor tiles, murals or ceiling displays.

The point is to make the city more aesthetically pleasing and add to its character. Pinellas and Hillsborough counties have public art ordinances, as do St. Petersburg, Tampa and Clearwater.

"(Public art) increases the community's sense of place and identity with their community," said Liesel Fenner, manager of public art for Americans for the Arts, a nonprofit organization.

There are more than 280 municipalities nationwide that have public art programs, said Fenner, whose organization has offices in Washington, D.C., New York and Tarpon Springs.

Earlier this year, Tarpon Springs City Commissioner Robin Saenger brought the idea of forming a public art committee before the commission. Their charge would be to oversee the administering of the art ordinance.

"It enhances the arts community that already exists here and brings more awareness to the arts," said Saenger, an artist herself.

Tuesday's 5-0 vote for the ordinance came after several workshop sessions where the guidelines of the city's public art policy were fine-tuned.

The ordinance requires builders to spend 1 percent of a project's budget on public art or contribute a slightly lesser amount to the city's public art fund. The requirement applies only to projects worth $1-million or more.

If the builder opts to contribute to the city's fund, the cost would be 0.75 percent of the project, with a maximum contribution not to exceed $100,000.

Individuals building homes or developers working on affordable housing projects are exempt.

The public arts committee, which will include seven members, will largely oversee the selection of the art projects.

Art purchases of more than $15,000 must be brought before the commission for consideration.

"I feel real good about this," said Commissioner Peter Dalacos, who had previously expressed concern about city contributions to the fund.

"We do have a good art base here with the antique district and performing arts. Once we expand and create awareness, more and more people will become aware of Tarpon being an arts community."

[Last modified July 20, 2007, 06:52:26]

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