One percent art program gets mixed reviews

    Cities all over the country have developed programs that dedicate 1% of building costs to public art. Philadelphia was the first to do – it 50 years ago. Since then landmark works have been created, including the game pieces in front of the Municipal Services Building and a giant clothespin.

    Cities all over the country have developed programs that dedicate 1% of building costs to public art. Philadelphia was the first to do – it 50 years ago. Since then landmark works have been created, including the game pieces in front of the Municipal Services Building and a giant clothespin.

    Listen:
    [audio: 091029pcpublicart.mp3]

    In a report on Philadelphia public art commissioned by the City’s Office of Arts and Culture a few weeks ago, the One Percent Program was both praised as groundbreaking, and criticized for being stale.

    Aaron Levy is the director of a gallery and publishing house called the Slought Foundation. He says public art suffers when it has to satisfy too many agendas.

    Levy: Public art started many years back as a way to mitigate deficiencies in an urban landscape, and today it serves a different purpose. It has to serve corporate needs, be aesthetically pleasing, it has to popular, stand 12 months of use, resist skateboarders. Seems we’ve set up an impossible challenge.

    Levy hopes the idea of what public art is can be expanded beyond murals and sculptures. The city report on public art said the city lacks a coordinated public art strategy.

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