The city commissions art work for public works projects valued over $1 million, allocating 1 percent of the project's cost to art. The city's visual arts committee proposed to include parks and future extensions of the city's trails in that policy after noticing that art was part of the new pedestrian overpass on Highway 85 to Heatherstone Way.
City staff and the contractor came up with the designs without input from the committee, which advises the city on public art projects.
Mike Kasperzak, Chris Clark and John McAlister were the only supporters of the VAC's proposal, which was defeated in a 4-3 vote.
"I think the natural environment is art in itself," said council member Margaret Abe-Koga. "I'm happy to leave off parks and trails."
Expressing a similar view, council member Jac Siegel criticized the art piece the city commissioned for the western entrance to Shoreline Park at the north end of San Antonio Road.
"We're in the middle of a bird wildlife sanctuary and we put up a bunch of cast-iron birds," Siegel said. "That was one of the silliest things we ever did."
Council member Mike Kapserzak disagreed.
"You go the great parks of the world and there are major displays of art," Kasperzak said. "You don't plop down a big statue in Yellowstone Park next to Old Faithful, but a piece of art wouldn't be entirely inappropriate in Cuesta Park or Rengstorff Park" or embellishing a piece of cement in a park or on a trail bridge.
"I think you are really limiting the possibility of what artistic expression can be in a public project," he said.
The extension of the policy would not have applied to neighborhood parks that cost less than $1 million. To member Ronit Bryant, such parks don't need commissioned art anyway, saying the city's new Mariposa park at the west end of Dana Street "is delightful" despite being "not embellished with art. There's lots of little plaques and little additions that make it look thought-through and loved and beautiful." All the city needed was "a really good team saying, 'How can we make this place delightful?'"
To other members, it seemed that the visual arts committee could help with such things.
"Who is going to define art?" said council member John McAlister. "A gateway to a park, that could be art. We should leave that interpretation to our committee. How does it hurt our city to have art?"