Nine Rails Art District 01

The Nine Rails art district near 25th Street and Adams Avenue in downtown Ogden on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019.

OGDEN — Ogden City is looking for local artists to weigh in on proposed changes to the city's public arts funding mechanism. 

The Ogden City Council will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. Aug 20 at the Ogden Municipal Building, 2549 Washington Blvd., to accept public feedback on the city's arts ordinance. The city is considering three significant changes.

The first change involves a measure that would allow the mayor to approve up to $30,000 toward “minor art” projects without city council approval. Such projects would have to be consistent with the city's Arts Master Plan and be recommended by the Ogden Arts Advisory Committee.

A second change to the ordinance would allow grant funding for projects proposed by the mayor, based on unique circumstances related to project timing, participation by multiple community partners or a local project that integrates with a larger project on a regional, state or national scale. The change would speed up the city approval process for time-sensitive projects. The city says grant requirements must still be met and funding would still require noticing and justification requirements required by state law.

The third change allows for city-funded public arts projects to be placed on public property with an easement for public access and maintenance.

In June, the 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. 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. 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.

While it stabilized arts funding, the model 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.

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

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