Las Vegas Sun

December 17, 2014

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Automatic public art funding prevails in Las Vegas vote


Steve Marcus

A view of one of the two Dennis Oppenheim paintbrushes on Charleston Boulevard in the Arts District Sunday, June 5, 2011.

Click to enlarge photo

Bob Beers

Las Vegas will keep its funding for public art projects at current levels after the city council rejected a bill Wednesday that could have scaled back contributions to the program.

The issue: The council considered an ordinance amendment that would have made their mandatory contribution to the arts fund optional instead.

The vote: Rejected 6-1, with Councilman Bob Beers voting in opposition.

What it means: The city’s public art fund, which has funneled $1.1 million to projects since 2005, will remain unchanged.

As part of the Percent for the Arts program, the city diverts 1 percent of its annual capital improvements budget into the arts fund.

The fund has supported numerous projects large and small around the city, but collections have slowed in the past several years because of a reduction in capital spending.

Beers’ proposed bill would have made the city’s 1 percent contribution optional, which could have led to a cut in funding.

Beers said he doesn’t oppose public funding of arts projects, but he wants to see the money spent on local artists. Several of the largest projects paid for through the arts fund, including the $350,000 pair of glowing paintbrushes on Charleston Boulevard near downtown, were done by out-of-state artists.

The proposal drew opposition from the arts community, who turned out in force to voice their opinions on the bill at a hearing earlier this month.

On Wednesday, the rest of the city council voted not to make any changes to the program after a brief discussion.

Councilman Bob Coffin said he doesn’t like earmarking a percent of the city’s budget for a special fund because it raises the issue of whether there are other interests the city should be directly allocating funds to.

But Coffin said he’d like to see the city’s art funding remain unchanged, in part because it comes out of the capital improvement budget and not the general fund.

“I’m a great supporter of the arts and I believe public art is so essential to the health of the community that we need to foster it.” Coffin said. “But remember when you start to carve out percents from budgets … where’s the percent for mental health? Where’s the percent for children and so on?”

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