Fountains, murals and trolls, oh my!

If you have ever seen the Hammering Man in downtown Seattle, the huge concrete troll under the Fremont Bridge or the fountain at the Seattle Center, you have witnessed public art.

Now a group of local residents and art enthusiasts wants to see similar art pieces in Bremerton.

“First I would like to see it in downtown and then I would like to see it in other parts of the city,” said John Lyall, a realtor who helped present a 1 percent tax for the arts ordinance to the Bremerton City Council at the Wednesday night study session.

The two-pronged goal is to have every publicly funded project include 1 percent in their construction budget for art on site, such as sculptures, fountains or playgrounds outside the buildings, or artistic interiors.

Additionally, Lyall and his cohorts want to establish a commission of artists and community members who will actively pursue art projects and art funding in our city.

“A lot of people just think of public art as just murals and sculptures,” said Wendy Priest, an interior designer at Rice Fergus Architects who also helped present the proposed 1 percent arts tax. “It can also include dance, theater, music, it can even be incorporated into architecture.”

The group presented a 20-minute Power Point presentation followed by a question and answer period on the subject to an interested City Council.

“I’m a big supporter of it,” said Ed Rollman, whose District 4 covers the downtown core, a big target of the group.

“It raises the bar for the type of development you have in the city,” District 3 councilman Daren Nygren said.

Mike Short, District 9, asked whether or not the 1 percent tax could be added to all projects, both public and private. That is something the City Council could decide as they continue to look at the issue.

Priest has researched dozens of cities that currently have such programs, and said many apply it to both publicly and privately funded projects. She envisons the same policy for Bremerton.

Councilman Eric Younger expressed the need to gain much more public input on the arts fund.

“I really feel it is an important decision,” he said after the meeting. “As a representative of the city of Bremerton, it really keys on what the people want. I have no problem with art in the community. The issue is whether taxpayers need to pay for it.”

He expressed hesitation that adding a percent in the construction budget will drive up the overall cost to an unreasonable height. As an example, when a project like the conference center or government center is paid for through public taxes, citizens may not want to dish out the extra dollars to have art installed.

Bob Dietz has worked with Priest and Lyall to create the ordinance placed before the City Council. He sees the 1 percent a tax as a necessity, and a way to draw attention to Bremerton to make people think about their world differently.

“Putting art into a design is meeting another kind of need,” Dietz said.

Lyall said his group also sees economic advantages to adding more public art in the city.

“If you improve the quality of life here, developers will come here,” he said.

Now that the City Council has the ordinance in their hands, they have a right to decide how many members the committee will have, how long their terms are, what city department heads they will work with, and their goals.

As the ordinance reads now, the roles of the commission will be to establish criteria for the selection of art, approve art to be installed, seek monetary donations and oversee the maintenance of the art.

Priest says she wants to have approval of a finalized ordinance by December 31 of 2003.

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