The Lexington council voted Tuesday to move forward a proposal that would set up a dedicated funding stream for public art projects.
The resolution would set aside 1 percent of any building project of more than $10 million to pay for public art to accompany that project. Also, 1 percent of any borrowing for other projects under $10 million would go into a separate pool of money for public art projects.
The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council voted 9 to 5 to move the resolution onto its agenda during a Tuesday work session. The final vote will likely happen at the Aug. 30 council meeting. The resolution also would set up a a citywide public arts master plan and reconfigure a long-dormant public arts commission.
The amount of money available for public art would fluctuate depending on the amount the city bonds or borrows.
The Lexington Council’s General Government and Social Services Committee voted on an earlier version of the resolution at a meeting in June. It also discussed the resolution again at a meeting prior to the Tuesday work session.
The city currently funds public art on an ad hoc basis. For example, the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, includes $100,000 for a sculpture to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
More than 350 cities have dedicated funding streams for public art. The city could either borrow or use general fund dollars to reach the 1 percent quota, said Finance Commissioner Bill O’Mara.
Several council members said they were uncomfortable with borrowing money for public art when there are so many other public needs.
“We are going to go into debt to fund this?” said Councilman Kevin Stinnett. “I can’t support this right now until we fund basic infrastructure.”
Councilman Fred Brown said he, too, supports art. But Brown said he didn’t want to fund public art over other key projects.
Councilwoman Angela Evans said she thought the council was going to discuss more funding options prior to the council’s vote to move the resolution to the full council.
‘I would like us to put this on hold,” Evans said. “We have other infrastructure that has not been fully funded. We haven’t fully funded street lights. I’m in favor of art and big ideas. I don’t feel comfortable with how we are funding it right now.”
Councilman Bill Farmer Jr. , who pushed the resolution, said large public art projects can help define Lexington. The public has been very supportive of the proposal, he said.
“I can’t tell you how important this is for Lexington,” Farmer said.
Those who voted for the resolution include: Jake Gibbs, Joe Smith, Susan Lamb, James Brown, Kathy Plomin, Jennifer Mossotti, Vice Mayor Steve Kay, and Farmer. Those who voted against it include: Stinnett, Evans, Brown, Amanda Beldsoe and Preston Worley.