Jan. 29, 2020 — The first Public Art Committee (PAC) meeting of the year took place on Monday at Florence City Hall. The committee has lost a number of members in the past few months, but the four remaining PAC members began work on the next stage of the “Art Exposed” portion of their responsibilities.
Committee Chairperson Harlen Springer and Vice Chair Jo Beaudreau have retained their positions leading PAC but, with only two other members of the committee currently seated, the work of selecting the next round of possible “Art Exposed” pieces is being decided on by just four committee members.
This meeting of PAC was scheduled at 1 p.m., rather than it’s normal 10 a.m. start time, to allow for more members of the community to attend the meeting. The move didn’t work out as hoped, with only one member of the public attending Monday’s meeting — an unfortunate situation given that one of the main complaints leveled against PAC in the past by some community members is the relative few individuals involved in the art selection process.
The process of discussion and consideration regarding the 26 entries submitted for the next round of “Art Exposed” took approximately two hours and focused on the visual impact of the pieces, with secondary consideration given to the appropriate placement of the artwork.
The “Art Exposed” Gallery is a rotating showcase of public art in Historic Old Town Florence, with many pieces in a row along Bay Street. Florence Public Works has installed pedestals for the art, which allows people to view and purchase the artworks.
The meeting’s discussion was led from the city’s perspective by Sarah Moehrke, community and economic development assistant, with Springer and Beaudreau managing the discussion from the PAC perspective.
Springer said he was pleased with the progress made at the meeting and wanted to assure the community that PAC will be scheduling a public meeting to receive input on the art selected for consideration.
“The committee reviewed and discussed the initial submissions and we were very pleased with the overall number, quality and variety of the entries,” he said. “This speaks to the positive reputation that the program has achieved. We selected two or three finalists for each of the five locations on Bay Street. To ensure public input into the process, we are working on scheduling an evening meeting where the public can comment on the finalists for each of the locations, and the date and time of that meeting will be well publicized.”
Springer said the committee plans to make final decisions by mid-March, with the artwork installed in May and June.
Another criticism made by some community members in the past was the lack of local artists in the selection process. There was concern expressed that the many local artists and craftspeople were not seriously considered for selection and display.
That critique could potentially be raised again in the latest selection process due to having only two of the current entries under consideration from artists residing in the Florence area.
In addition, artists from Brooklyn, Chicago, Washington D.C., Idaho and Washington State have submitted work for consideration, in addition to a number of artists from other places in Oregon.
The original submissions were well-vetted, and the end result of the process was the selection of a limited number of pieces to be considered for each of five locations in the Old Town District.
The meeting was primarily dedicated to this next stage of the “Art Exposed” program but Springer did mention the Florence Urban Renewal Agency (FURA) meeting, which took place last week. Specifically, Springer attempted to clarify the PAC position as it applied to a previously approved display slated for on one of the most iconic structures in Florence — The Siuslaw River Bridge. The project would incorporate art into the steps leading up to the bridge’s north-east corner from a parking lot off Bay Street.
During last week’s FURA meeting, City Manager Erin Reynolds announced the time frame for the completion of an agreement between the Oregon Department of Transportation and the city was taking longer than anticipated, and that the original contract with the artist to complete those negotiations by a specific date had expired.
Springer acknowledged the confusion surrounding the steps project and stated the project would continue, but at a slower pace than planned.
FURA had originally committed to purchase the steps installation but the fallout from last year’s mural project prompted a change in the funding mechanism for public art in Florence. It is unclear what the future of the steps project will be at this time.
The next PAC meeting is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 24, beginning at 10 a.m. at Florence City Hall. For more information, visit ci.florence.or.us.