City sketches public art plans at strategy meeting

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published February 7, 2017

 “Burst,” by Ray Katz, is part of the Sterling Heights art collection.

“Burst,” by Ray Katz, is part of the Sterling Heights art collection.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Sterling Heights city officials are developing plans they believe will smartly install more public art in the city.

Community Relations Director Bridget Kozlowski revealed the latest update to the city’s evolving public art plan at a Jan. 24 special Sterling Heights City Council meeting that addressed strategic planning.

Kozlowski explained that future public art in Sterling Heights could include murals, memorials, sculptures, digital art, community art, landscaping, architectural work, and even performances and festivals. Public art can boost “placemaking” opportunities in the city that create a sense of identity, she said.

“Similarly, we know the beautification of spaces and adding elements of art and creativity will help us continue to transform into a place our residents would never consider leaving,” she said. “Additionally, according to research by the National Arts Council, art has been proven to attract and retain talent.”

Kozlowski said such an initiative requires a sustainable source of funds, and the plan is to create a public art fund through contributions and a general fund match.

With some exceptions, she said, residential and commercial developers who build developments could be made to contribute to the fund, donate art or install public art on their property. Donations and grant money could also go into the fund.

She estimated, conservatively, that such a fund could raise about $150,000 per year, and with city matches, it could reach a total of around $225,000 annually. She said a good portion of the initial funds raised would be allocated into cleaning, maintenance and renovation of existing public art.

The city’s Office of Engineering and the Parks and Recreation Department would play roles in picking locations for artwork, Kozlowski said.

She said areas with pedestrian and sidewalk access would be prioritized.

The goal is to have the City Council discuss the art fund program proposal in March. If the measure is approved, the Sterling Heights Arts Commission would get to work and start creating the process for seeking out artwork.

“We could potentially have our first piece installed in 2017, and also at that time, we would hope to begin cleaning some of our existing pieces,” Kozlowski said.

From there, city officials would hope to pursue bigger art projects and plan an outdoor “art park” in 2018, she said.

In charge of deciding the artwork for the city would be the Sterling Heights Arts Commission, along with an ad-hoc subcommittee composed of art professionals who make recommendations. Kozlowski raised a few factors that could steer the decisions over art.

“The questions we plan to ask throughout our process when deciding on art: ‘Is it fun? Does it invite you to touch it, climb on it, engage with it? Does it bring people together and make people smile?’” she said.

Councilman Nate Shannon wanted the council to have some input on what kind of art is chosen. And he wondered whether the historical architecture of Upton House, near Dodge Park Road and Utica Road, could become part of the art campaign and get some of the funds.

“The art park — let’s definitely make that happen,” Shannon added. “That looks really cool to me. I think it’s not just art; it’s also functional, which would be a great addition to our already-great parks and future parks.”

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