Public art plan: Johnson City Commission to decide sculptures, locations

Gary B. Gray • Apr 17, 2014 at 11:19 PM

City commissioners tonight will be selecting up to 12 sculptures and the proposed locations for public art along the State of Franklin Road/Downtown Corridor.

The Johnson City Public Art Committee and the curator have narrowed the selections and will be recommending those to commissioners. The art is expected to be installed in time for the Blue Plum Festival.

The committee has collected more than $31,000 in contributions, and artists’ proposals were received Monday.

Proposed locations include the West State of Franklin/University Parkway intersection, a stretch of West State of Franklin from Sevier Street to Tupelo Honey, as well as several locations on Buffalo Street from West State of Franklin to East Market Street.

An exploratory committee formed two years ago included Catherine Murray and members of the Mary B. Martin School of the Arts at East Tennessee State University, the Reece Museum, Johnson City Area Arts Council, Nelson Fine Arts Gallery, the Parks and Recreation Department and Holt Photography. They solicited input and looked at the concept of public art in Johnson City.

Through their efforts, and the help of the city’s Public Works Department, residents and visitors will be seeing some first-class sculptures springing up between ETSU and the downtown area.

Public Works Director Phil Pindzola said the initial focus has been on hiring a curator and leasing sculptures from various artists. He said he expects the dozen or so pieces of art to cost about $30,000-$40,000 a year, and he also strongly suggested that funding for the art be derived from private sources.

Atmos Energy already has verbally committed $25,000 to the program, and developers of University Edge have committed $10,000.

“Frankly, if private resources are not committed, the value of the public art initiative is substantially degraded,” he said. “The first idea is to create a large piece of public art for the masses,” Pindzola said. “By that I mean a substantial sculpture that likely would be located along State of Franklin Road on the way into downtown. We’re trying to encourage a rethinking of downtown. And the site was suggested because its along the multi-purpose trail constructed between ETSU and downtown.”

Basically, here’s how the program works:

The curator and committee judge recommend to the City Commission works deemed most appropriate. The selected sculptures would be rented from the artist for one year, with the typical rate ranging from $1,000-$2,000 per sculpture.

Anyone in the community would have the opportunity to purchase any of the sculptures on display, either for private purposes or permanent public display. After one year, the displays would be removed and a second solicitation for sculptures would occur to create a continual annual renewal.

The process would continue indefinitely. And in coming years, the types or forms of art could expand to include murals and other works.

Commissioners also will consider:

• A third reading to rezone properties at 502, 600 and 606 N. Broadway St. from B-1 (neighborhood business) to R2C (low density residential).

• A second reading and public hearing on the annexation of property known as the Highland Parc Phase 4 and the zoning of this property to R-2A (low density residential).

• A nearly $186,000 bid from Inland Construction Co. to provide bridge improvements on the Tweetsie Trail.

Like Gary B. Gray on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/Gary-B-Gray. Follow him on Twitter @ggrayjcpress.

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