For the past two years, Fort Worth has owned a bright yellow ribbon that, unlike the lyrics of a once-popular song, it could not simply tie “ round the ole oak tree.”
Tabachin Ribbon, a 13-foot-diameter metal sculpture by famed Mexican artist Yvonne Domenge, was part of a 2010 temporary exhibition at Chicago’s Millennium Park and was later donated to the city of Fort Worth.
In accepting the public art piece to be set up at the Municipal Court Plaza, the City Council in 2012 approved $60,000 for moving, storing and installing it.
Last month some council members balked when they learned the cost had more than doubled, nearly matching the sculpture’s appraised $150,000 value, because of some structural issues at the plaza and some damage to the work caused during disassembly and delivery.
They demanded an explanation from the Arts Council of Fort Worth and Tarrant County, which oversees the public art program.
Martha Peters, vice president of the arts council, showed up at the City Council meeting Tuesday to explain the cost overruns. She was firmly rebuked by Mayor Betsy Price and some council members for not having vetted the financial issues adequately or informing the council sooner when things changed.
The council voted 7-2 to pay the increased costs, so the art will be installed and is likely to be much more valuable than its monetary price.
Overall, the arts commission has been a good steward of the public arts program, overseeing dozens of projects that have been true to its mission “to create an enhanced visual environment for Fort Worth residents, commemorate the city’s rich cultural and ethnic diversity, integrate the design work of artists into the development of the city’s capital infrastructure improvements and to promote tourism and economic vitality in the city through the artistic design of public spaces.”
But because the program uses public dollars, including up to 2 percent of funds allocated for specific bond projects, the commission can’t afford to show any degree of ineptness, lack of attention or disregard for complete disclosure to the council.
In order to maintain the council’s and the public’s trust, administrators must ensure that what happened with this gifted art piece never occurs again.