FORT WORTH — More than $632,000 in new public art projects were recommended to the City Council on Monday, with several council members questioning the need — and the cost — of public art.Martha Peters, vice president of the Fort Worth & Tarrant County Arts Council, presented the recommendations from the Fort Worth Art Commission during the pre-council meeting, including $151,000 to fund an amphitheater at Lake Como Park. Councilman Zim “W.B.” Zimmerman, however, said he asked that the amphitheater project in his district be put on hold. “We have a community center that is falling apart around our ears, and the bond package only has half of those funds,” Zimmerman said. “That is the No. 1 priority, and we are certainly not building an amphitheater until it is completed.” Zimmerman said there are concerns about safety in the park, especially at night, and those type of issues need to be addressed, too, before the city can worry about adding public art. It is up to the Art Commission on whether or not to hold those funds for the amphitheater or allocate them to another project, Peters said.The proposed projects for fiscal year 2014 also include $70,000 to add benches to the Earth Fountain on Camp Bowie Boulevard, $25,000 to create metal artwork at Rockwood Park and $300,000 to add public art to a new Holly radio tower. The benches would complement the Earth Fountain project completed in 2009. The artist, Philippe Klinefelter, included seating in his original proposal, Peters said, but the Art Commission was uncertain about funding at the time. The 10-foot-long benches will be carved from Texas granite and match the current project. Councilman Dennis Shingleton said the Earth Fountain was well-received by residents, and so will the benches be, although he said he is “always amazed” at the cost of public art projects. “There is nothing ordinary about it — it is very unique,” Shingleton said.Gachman Metal & Recycling is donating metal and $25,000 for the proposed art project at Rockwood Park, with the Art Commission recommending the city match the donated funds. Public art debateTwo percent of the 2004, 2007 and 2008 bond packages were allocated for public art, as required by a 2001 City Council ordinance. The public art program is taking heat from council members and residents in the 2014 bond package, however. That package is set to go to voters in May. The $292 million bond program is dominated by infrastructure but will include $5.8 million for public art funding if the 2 percent formula in the ordinance is not changed. Zimmerman is in favor of reducing or eliminating the public art funding for the 2014 bond package, to focus on infrastructure and community needs. “Who wants to go look at a painting if you have to walk through mud to get there?” Zimmerman asked. It appears at public meetings that many residents are in favor of keeping the public art portion, said Councilman Sal Espino. “We will have a serious debate about what that contribution should be, but I am in favor of keeping that at 2 percent,” Espino said, adding that the proposed matching plan with Gachman Metal & Recycling is a great example of how public art can work. Improving bike trails is the most popular idea topic on “ Your Fort Worth,” an online message board for community input into the 2014 bond package, with public input sessions going through November. Though she understands the city has many infrastructure needs, Peters said public art has hard-to-measure benefits, possibly improving tourism and the economy. The fiscal year 2014 public art budget is nearly $7.9 million for new and continued public art projects. The council is scheduled to vote on the fiscal year 2014 plan, which is unaffected by the 2014 bond package, on Oct. 22.
Caty Hirst, 817-390-7984 Twitter, @CatyHirst