Aug. 28, 2019 — The City of Florence Public Art Committee (PAC) met at Florence City Hall Monday morning to continue working on a new set of by-laws and guidelines under which the committee, if allowed to continue, will operate.
The committee has been tasked to rewrite the rules governing its operations in the face of repeated attempts by Florence Mayor Joe Henry, along with other members of the Florence City Council, to limit — or completely eliminate — PAC.
The PAC created a community-wide controversy last year with the approval, and subsequent installation, of a mural on two exterior walls of the Central Lincoln Public Utility District building on the corner of Quince Street and Highway 126.
The subject matter chosen for the large colorful mural, and the methodology used to select and pay for the piece, have been a source of contention for many in the community as well as on the city council, particularly in the final months leading up to the mural’s installation.
That contention, as well as the divided public response to the mural, directly resulted in a June decision by the city council to either more firmly control the operation and procedures of the PAC and its members or eliminate the committee altogether.
Since that June decision, the Florence City Council has allowed PAC to operate under city auspices for 90 days, giving the current members of PAC that amount of time to work on an update to its by-laws, which govern PAC responsibilities and contributions to the city art collection.
Harlen Springer, the current chairperson for PAC, has been the subject of accusations of unprofessional behavior by Henry and City Councilor Geraldine Lucio, regarding comments he made to a Eugene television station.
Springer has denied acting or speaking inappropriately and continues to advocate for an independent and self-directed group. As such, he has remained involved in the work done by PAC, unlike other members of the committee, some of who have resigned due to the tumult surrounding the mural.
Springer has worked over the past month to formulate a path forward for PAC without relinquishing the progress made by the committee during the past four years.
According to Springer, he remains committed to maintaining a vital, more-inclusive public art component to the city’s work plan and is using the 90-day window to re-imagine the way in which the PAC operates within the overall umbrella of city authority.
At last Monday’s public work session, Springer provided his goals in rewriting the PAC By-Laws.
“[Our goals] include improved communications with the city council and recognition of the role of the PAC under the city council, along with improved and updated public outreach processes to ensure broad public exposure to key PAC activities. Also, an improved selection process on all major projects to involve more stakeholders,” Springer said. “These are significant upgrades to the PAC process and we believe the result will be a closer working relationship with the council — and an improved information flow to the public. We are currently finalizing the documents and plan to present them at a Council work session.”
The next PAC work session is tentatively set for Oct. 7, and the next PAC meeting is Sept. 23.
All city work sessions and committee meetings are open to the public.