Public Art 02

Public art in downtown Ogden on Wednesday, May 22, 2019. Ogden City will be changing the way they fund public artwork.

OGDEN — While the city council approved a measure that will overhaul the way Ogden funds public art, a related action that would allow some smaller projects to be funded without the council's approval has been put on hold. 

On Tuesday, the Ogden City Council adopted a proposal from the city administration that calls for public art to be funded exclusively through lease revenue the city collects from the Business Depot Ogden business park.

Deputy City Attorney Mark Stratford said until 2016, city-funded art was paid for from a pooled “Percent for Art” fund. Ogden was the first Utah city to begin such program when it was adopted in 1997. The program called for 1% of eligible city capital improvement project funds to be set aside for the commission, purchase and installation of art — a strategy aimed at building a large, public collection.

"For several reasons, as time when on there were some challenges with that method of funding," Stratford said. "Partially because in some years, there would be a significant number of capital projects and there would be a lot of funding, and then in other years, not as many projects and less funding."

The city changed the funding model in 2016, moving to collect art money from its water, sanitary sewer and storm sewer utility funds. The money collected under that model was equivalent to the average yearly amount spent under the old Percent for Art funding method. 

But Stratford said that model, while stabilizing the arts funding, proved problematic as well. During the city’s 2018 budgeting process, several residents expressed concerns about using utility funds to pay for art projects, saying that money should be locked into the operation and maintenance of utility infrastructure.

"It led people to ask 'How come you're funding it this way?'" Stratford said. "People questioned how the sources of funding were working."

The revamped funding method calls for an annual contribution of up to $200,000 with a maximum account balance of $500,000. That means if the account is at its maximum during a particular year, no new funding would be appropriated.

Stratford also said the new ordinance doesn't stop the council from funding art over and above the annual contribution of $200,000.

"This doesn't stop you as a council from making a determination to do additional funding," he said. "What it does is sets a minimum (dollar amount). It doesn't set a maximum."

A measure that would have allowed the mayor to approve up to $30,000 toward “minor art” projects without council approval was removed from the ordinance after some council members expressed concern with it.

According to council documents, the item will be addressed and considered in the coming months, with additional dialogue from the local arts community.

You can reach reporter Mitch Shaw at mishaw@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23.

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