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Village Board Looks at New Procedure to Approve Public Art

By Rich Place

The Springville Village Board last week discussed a new procedure for bringing art displays into public areas to avoid recent scenarios this summer that forced trustees to approve such projects themselves.

Springville Mayor Bill Krebs said during the village’s meeting on Sept. 10 that he wants individuals with a more artistic background — as well as other officials that should have a voice on publicly displayed art — to be part of a new committee that could lead discussions on future decisions.

The village board this year was essentially required to make artistically-inspired decisions by approving public art projects in June requested by the Springville Center for the Arts for their summer intern program. At its most recent meeting, the board also began the process of applying for a grant by approving an artist for a set of sculptures in Heritage Park.

The approval of an artist far from guarantees the works of art will come to the village, but the board was required to choose an artist this month if it wished to pursue a grant that would bring the chosen artist here to erect the sculptures.

“I know we didn’t want to be in this position of choosing but the policy is a little late being approved,” Mayor Krebs told trustees during the meeting.

Near the end of the village board meeting, trustees — along with Mayor Krebs and village administrator Liz Melock — spent about 20 minutes discussing this potential new art committee, deemed the Springville Public Art Advisory Committee. While all trustees seemed to agree on the need for such a committee, the majority of the discussion was about the length of time approval for public art projects could take.

“If an artist is considered, is this an eight-month approval process or an eight-week approval process?” asked trustee Alan Chamberlain. Mayor Krebs responded that it “could be a real fast” turnaround for some projects.

The proposed procedure for a work of public art to proceed would require the approval of multiple boards in addition to the Public Art Advisory Committee, dependant on the location of such art. For example, art expected to be placed anywhere in the historic district would need approval from the Historic Preservation Committee and art on any municipally owned space needs approval from the village board.

Melock raised concern that the art committee — which could consist of village officials, art representatives, members of the Historic Preservation Committee, among others — could find it difficult to find a meeting time when presented with a project. She also noted the village board, which would still be required to approve any projects on municipal property, only meets once a month during the summer.

The village board’s desire for such a committee stemmed primarily from its June meeting when they heard a presentation from two Springville Center for the Arts representatives about public art projects under its summer internship program. Many of those projects were originally discussed to be placed on municipal property, like Heritage Park.

Having such ideas go before a committee before it’s presented to the village board would allow any potential questions to be answered by those more familiar with art and get input from others more involved in the art installation itself.

“I am not in favor of having what happened this year, when someone comes before the board and says ‘approve it,’” Mayor Krebs said.

This new art committee could also work with the artist chosen for the potential installation of sculptures in Heritage Park; so far early in the process only Melock and the village board have had input. If the grant is approved through the Arts Service Initiative of Western New York, a final design would need to be chosen.

In the future, the committee could also be proactive in searching for artists instead of simply approving ones who approach the village, Krebs said.

There was also an idea to create a sub-committee called the Public Art Installation Committee which would focus more on logistics of installing the art than choosing which pieces would be approved, but it was decided to essentially merge those members, like someone from the Department of Public Works involved in any potential installation, into the overarching committee.

Following the discussion, Krebs noted he will revise the outline of the potential Public Art Advisory Committee for additional conversation at an upcoming meeting.

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