Hillsborough County Commission discusses art funding, local talent

01/06/10 Kate Bradshaw
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Today the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners approved amendments to an ordinance that will likely curb the amount of money the county spends on public art. It can now constitute one percent or less of a public building’s project cost, and can go to zero in tough times. All projects will be capped at $150 thousand. But it was the inclusion of local artists - not the cuts – that were the big issue at today’s hearing. The issue drew an impassioned plea from activist Marilyn Smith.

The commissioners agreed with Smith, but to different degrees. Commissioner Kevin Beckner said that it would be best not to draft ordinance language limiting who can create pieces like the Firefighter sculpture in Sun City, or the Ferdie Pacheco pieces at the West Tampa Library.

Of the 107 artists the county has commissioned, 65 of them were local, with an additional 17 from other parts of Florida. Commissioner Mark Sharpe said that choosing artists that are based in the Tampa Bay Area helps reinforce regional identity.

Bill Iverson, the County’s Public Art Coordinator, says that part of his department’s mission is to utilize local talent when possible, but that the term “local” is hard to define.

The commission ultimately decided not to include a concrete number for the local talent requirement, but appeared open to considering softer language. Such a requirement may not be a priority, since last year the county funded no public art works, and there is currently one underway. County Administrator Pat Bean said that this is due to budget constraints.

In other County Budget news, all Hillsborough County offices will be closed on next Friday, January 15, due to mandated furloughs.

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