Have your say on how the city spends money on public art

Taking a break on their business trip to sip coffee along Winslow Way, Ellissa Wieneke and Angie Glasser eyed the sculpture a few feet away.

“It’s fun,” said Glasser, nodding at the mosaic sphere tucking in the landscape near their table. “Public art like this adds some flavor and gives us an interpretation of who the people are here.”

On the island for a just a few hours to help with a local theater production, the Seattle-area costumers came quickly to the conclusion that Bainbridge likes to share art in a public fashion.

“Just walking around, you can tell this is an art town,” Wieneke said.

And there’s much more public art on the way.

The city early this year increased the public art program’s share of capital projects funding from 1 to 2 percent, increasing the annual average of $24,000 to about $66,000.

Now arts advocates are working on a six-year plan to direct the types, locations and styles of the new works.

The Bainbridge Island Arts & Humanities Council will hold a meeting on Sunday afternoon to discuss public arts planning and gather input from residents.

“We’d love to hear from as many voices as possible, and put those voices into public art,” said Janice Shaw, who oversees the city public arts program.

According to Shaw, several opportunities for prominent public art works are around the corner.

The city is planning to build a shared police and courts facility and an expanded senior center. Both of which could feature indoor and outdoor installations like those found at City Hall.

The Bainbridge park district earned an annual $1.2 million levy boost from voters this month, increasing funding for new parks. Existing parks, including the Strawberry Plant, Pritchard and Waterfront, are likely to undergo revamps, which could include outdoor sculptures, Shaw said.

The city Public Arts Committee is circulating questionnaires to determine residents’ preferences for types of art: sculptural, architectural, decorative or functional, such as benches, bus shelters and bicycle racks.

The questionnaire is also aimed at finding common themes and preferred locations, including parks, public buildings, along main streets or in neighborhoods.

Building to a consensus about public art is part of an overall effort to update the city Comprehensive Plan’s public arts component, which has been delayed about a decade, according to Shaw. Also spurring the long-range look at public art is the development this year of the city’s six-year capital facilities plan. With much of the public arts program’s budget tied to capital projects, Shaw said arts advocates must move now to plan along with the city.

“We want to be holding hands and marching in step with the city’s plan,” she said.

The city’s 19-year-old public arts program has established numerous works on sidewalks and in public buildings. The pace of purchasing new works has slowed in recent years as the number of large capital projects has waned and the price of art has swelled. The last public art piece purchased through the program was installed in the aquatic center about five years ago.

The increased money for public art will be added to the total cost of future capital projects and is not taken from the actual construction dollars. The program does not apply to underground utility work, land acquisitions or grant-funded portions of capital projects.

The Bainbridge Island Arts & Humanities Council’s meeting to discuss the public art master plan begins at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday at Grace Episcopal Church, 8595 Day Road.
Visit www.artshum.org for more information.