Creative Curation: Part 4

junkyardarts August 24, 2011 Comments Off on Creative Curation: Part 4
Creative Curation: Part 4

Public Art was always an important issue for me, though in our economic decline I see now more than ever the potential for public art programs in our cities and how they can lift up communities emotionally, aesthetically and better yet: economically. Let’s get on with it!

Round 4 of my Thesis extravaganza!  San Fran Art is up!

Creative Curation: Uniting Public Art and the Theory of Creative Tourism to Increase Boston Arts Exposure

San Francisco and Public Art

Finally, we will examine San Francisco’s public art programs and how this city is pushing boundaries and making waves in the public art realm. San Francisco has long been commonly referred to as a sister city to Boston for a variety of reasons, including being waterfront cities, similar close-neighborhood diversity, and a shared interest in the arts. As similar as the cities can be, it is clear San Francisco has far more developed art programs and more government support for the arts as demonstrated by their Percent for Art laws, international shared-art public programs, and the various art commissions and nonprofits that work in San Francisco.

Art Care: Maintaining Public Art

The partnership between the San Francisco Arts Commission and the San Francisco Art Dealers Association is committed to the “conservation and maintenance of artworks that are among the city?s invaluable cultural assets”. While there is technical wording in the art ordinances that does not allow for funding to be provided to the stabilization and maintenance for certain types of commissioned artworks or work created prior to June 1997 when the ordinance was passed, the organization Art Care has developed a creative fund that allows not only the city to provide support, but also enlists the help of private organizations and the citizens of San Francisco to assist in supporting the Fund. As there are over 3,000 works of public art in San Francisco, it is likely that many of these works are residing in front of businesses, residential areas, parks, schools, and civic buildings based on their publicly-funded upkeep and ordinance mandates.

For each of these buildings to retain their value, the surrounding area must also be maintained properly; statues must be cleaned and stabilized, fountains must be functioning and clean, and public sitting areas must be free of clutter and crime. The Fund provides a great incentive for residents and business owners of San Francisco to get involved with the arts in their neighborhoods while also assuring property values maintain or grow in value.

This program is promoted easily enough, as it is in the best interest of each building to work with Art Care. Businesses are motivated to donate because they are able to say they support the arts, which, in turn, may increase their value according to the business’ patrons. There is also a tax incentive to donate to this Fund. Also to consider is the positive governmental attention making large donations has on a business; when a large donation is made by a company, the city will often honor them publically for their support of the arts and create positive PR, marketing opportunities, and exposure to the city as a whole.

The partnership between city and business through this program has immense potential benefits and can be translated into any city without increasing city costs. The same can be said for individuals who donate with the incentive to keep property values up while being recognized through the Art Care website or events in the future.

In the end, involving the residents of the city creates awareness of the art around them and asking for their assistance has been a terrific way of increasing the appreciation of art in the city at a local level, allowing for more programs to continue in the future.

The Art Care Fund also has a comprehensive website that allows for donations, updated information, and a listing of the top fifteen works that are most in need to assistance. With this ample and easily accessible website, the direct marketing to citizens with Art Care?s needs and goals engages locals to care about, and be aware of, the public art around them. This gives the power to the people, so to speak, rather than depending on government help to maintain public art; and in economic crises and times of governmental mistrust, encouraging and celebrating the citizens who care for their surroundings is a positive and empowering tool.

Art Care recently held the first international San Francisco Fine Art Fair in nearly ten years on May 20, 2010; the response was staggering. Nearly 15,000 visitors traveled to San Francisco in for only four days and resulted in over $5 million dollars in combined art sales51. A number of galleries, art collectors, and enthusiasts came to the city for this monumental event that not only showcased and sold art, but also honored Ruth Braunstein, who created Art Care, with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Art Care was awarded a spontaneous gift of $10,000 at the end of the ceremony and provided a unique platform for fundraising for the cause as well.

While the 2011 International Art Fair is now in the works due to the enormous success of the 2010 event, future events would do well to include another honoree who has supported Art Care with previous large donations and include a fundraising aspect to the event. In the end, the event served to prove “with this robust turnout, the Bay Area has once again re-emerged as a national mecca for art collecting, art patronage and art creation”.

Leif revised-for highlighted bostonpublicart

Public Art Program

San Francisco has an aggressive public art program similar to that of New York City?s and Philadelphia?s Percent for Art program. Specifically, the Public Art Ordinance, San Francisco Administrative Code, Section 3.19 which states:

“Before proposing a bond issue or making a request for an appropriation for the construction of any of the projects set forth in Subsection (c) below, the officer, board or commission concerned shall add thereto for the art enrichment of the proposed construction, two percent of the gross estimated construction cost, exclusive of the items proposed for such art enrichment. Where funding eligibility is limited by law or funding agency rules, the art enrichment allocation shall be based upon two percent of eligible construction costs.”

This program surpasses most Percent for Art policies by a full one percent. It has a provision to permit five percent of the one percent of ordinance-ordered funds to save in escrow for maintenance and conservation purposes. This unique addition to the ordinance provides a safety net for future projects and the upkeep of existing ones demonstrating a long-term understanding and commitment to their public art. While there are a number of provisions that allow for the bypass of this ordinance, including contractual issues with the city, and certain public works projects that are not subject to the percentage, it is a comprehensive ordinance that ensures new art and public spaces will be developed with each rebuilding, redesigning, and new construction of sites in all of San Francisco.

While many may argue this city has funds enough to handle such a wide-reaching Art Commission, it should be noted that research into the budget of 2010-2011 and past years indicate that even when the budget slashed over $500,000 from 2008 to 2009?s Public Art funds, the projection for 2011 holds steady with a returning budget of just over $113,000 in funds specified for public art. This comes as part of the newly balanced budget proposed by Mayor Gavin Newsom, in which many public and government programs are cut in order to balance the $6.48 billion budget.

Out of the budget reserved for Community Arts and Education and Cultural Equity Grant programs, public art takes up nine percent of total funds, which is a significant percentage when one sees that other areas needing funding are the Symphony, Cultural Equity Grant (which in itself relates to public art), and Community Arts and Education: each of these areas relates directly to the others in terms of cultural growth, multi-genre art programs, and public events.

Tourism as it relates to art was also noted as being a large consideration in terms of budget constraint. According to the 2010-2011 budget, Grants for the Arts to promote San Francisco as a tourist destination reported 11 million visitors in 2008-2009, 10 million in 2009-2010, and they project 9.6 million people in 2010-2011, presumably due to economic constraints, yet they reported 15,000 for the Art Fair alone, as noted previously. It it is clear that the mayor and representatives of the city agree that tourism as it relates to public art is essential to the economic and cultural growth of the city.

Public Art Accessibility

The San Francisco Arts Commission has a detailed and comprehensive website that allows for tourists and residents to fully immerse themselves in the public art throughout the city in a multitude of ways. Programs such as Art in Store Fronts, which shows work in three of the San Francisco gallery spaces throughout the city, are prominently featured to announce new exhibitions, openings, photographs, and more information on the artist. Other featured events include videos and write-ups, exhibitions, and special events including the official start of tours for Three Heads Six Arms by artist Zhang Huan.

It is clear that public art takes its place front and center in the citywide consideration of cultural advancement and economic growth. Access to the works is easily found through the Arts Commission website as well as the city?s website, and tours are constantly available to tourists.

Residents of San Francisco, however, know that to see great works of public art they simply need to take a walk outside their apartments to experience it. Engaging the public financially and emotionally will prove successful in the future of San Francisco public art as will be demonstrated in the tourism numbers, and programs such as Art Care and the implemented art ordinances can easily be adopted by Boston to grow its public art program.


While Boston has done a great many things right in its work towards increasing arts awareness and maintaining public art, it is clear that there are very many things that can be done to improve upon the status quo. Percent for Art policies are a National phenomenon because they are the clearest way to establish funds for public art without increasing financial strain on the residents and do not require additional state assistance. Many of the ordinances and laws are straight-forward, easily interpreted and can be clearly modeled for any city regardless of size and financial standing. With the introduction of a Percent for Art ordinance, along with the dedicated programs and organizations, Boston could become a city respectful of its past while moving into the future, financially, regionally and culturally reaping the benefits.

*citation available on request, nerds

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