City Increases Funding for Public Art and Local Artists – Merced County Times

Patricia Pratt, Eddie Rodriguez and an unidentified activist await the start of the city council meeting on Monday evening. Pratt and friends have been advocating for more public and community art since 2013.

Merced executives agreed to allocate more of the city’s budget to public art projects after sending out a request for proposals and receiving an enthusiastic response from local artists.

The decision also came after a protracted and somewhat contentious review process, and some of the artists called on the city to “fund” its graffiti reduction program and use those dollars to expand support for public art.

Merced City Council voted Monday night to allocate $100,000 over the coming fiscal year to support projects created by artists living in or near the city. Additionally, as part of the funding, board members went ahead and approved five proposals, valued at over $48,000, that had previously been recommended by the Arts and Culture Advisory Commission (ACAC ) from the city.

After launching an “open call for artists” in December, the ACAC selected a sub-committee to review 14 submitted projects. A ranking system was used to score each of the proposals taking into account artistic vision and merit, cost, location, expression of interest, relevance and community impact. ACAC’s final recommendations presented at Monday’s meeting included a total of six proposals — five submitted by local artists and one in Fresno County.

  • Artist Eddie Rodriguez earned the top score with his McNamara Park Youth Center Building mural project with a projected budget of $4,600.
  • Artist Glen Camarda was selected for his proposal to create a wheat dough mural on a downtown Merced alley with a budget of $5,990.
  • Artist Joel Aguilar was selected for his mural design for the Applegate Zoo Side Building with a proposed budget of $8,000.
  • Patricia Pratt was selected for her mural plan in and around Applegate Skate Park with a budget of $29,000.
  • Karen McComb was selected for her utility box embellishment proposal with a budget of $750.
  • Andrea Torres was selected for her $5,000 budget dumpster beautification project in city parking lots and behind the Merced Theater.

Torres, who lives in Fresno, was the only featured artist living outside of Merced County. His project ended up being turned down. As council debated increasing funding for public art projects and including more submitted plans, Councilman Jesse Ornelas suggested that council only approve proposals for local artists.

“If adding more money than what’s on offer is a problem,” Ornelas said, “then maybe we should focus on those coming from the city of Merced.”

Councilor Sarah Boyle stepped in and said she would approve all 14 proposals originally submitted. “If people have taken the time and want to provide art for the city…I’m okay with endorsing them all and finding funds somehow.”

“I would like us to provide guidelines to have a total budget of $100,000,” said Mayor Matt Serratto. He added that he wanted to approve the six projects approved by ACTA and ask ACTA to make further recommendations with this remaining balance.

Finally, a motion was brought forward by Councilman Fernando Echeveria to direct staff to allocate $100,000 to public community art and reward submissions made by the five recommended local artists in Merced’s “sphere of influence.” “. The motion passed six to one, with Mayor Serratto noting that he would have preferred to approve all of the proposals recommended by ACAC.

Outside the chamber doors, local artists and advocates were thrilled to hear that $100,000 would be allocated for public community art.

“It’s a big precedent,” said artist Eddie Rodriguez. “Eventually we will have other outside artists, but if we start prioritizing our funding here, I think it will grow our community here.”

Artist Patricia Pratt added, “I’m glad they’re investing. It’s revolutionary and monumental for Merced. I’m glad they’re reviewing the rest of the proposals and making further recommendations to the board.

Scoring controversy

The council’s decisions on Monday night, however, came after artist Patricia Pratt pleaded for the proposals to be reviewed by the ACAC, as she felt the commission had not accurately scored the submitted work according to the criteria. evaluation that the city of Merced had set out in the ‘Open Call for Artists’, they released in early December 2021.

Pratt is a local artist and the owner of Kreepy Kawaii Designs in downtown Merced. She had been advocating for public artwork at city council meetings since 2013.

On Jan. 3 and 21, Pratt said she sought clarification on ACAC’s submission of proposals which she said were later contradicted by ACAC during scoring. “How do people even know what to do? ” she asked.

At the April 18 city council meeting, Pratt told leaders, “I did 40 murals in Merced at no cost to the city. Twenty-four of them are fully visible to the public and of those 24, 16 were paid for out of my own pocket. Merced’s current public art inventory is only 21 pieces, which means I’ve contributed more than half of it. …I wonder why I got such a low score when I submitted my proposal, and I’m confused. I wonder if the scoring reflected the evaluation criteria listed in the RFP”

An erroneous rating was detected by city staff while preparing a report to city council on the ACAC subcommittee’s arts project rankings (originally approved in early April). On April 21, the subcommittee reconvened to review the corrected ratings and recommended the addition of a sixth draft for consideration by the ACAC. On April 25, the Arts and Culture Advisory Commission held a special meeting to review the corrected rankings. Unfortunately, there was no quorum for this meeting.

Said Pratt, “I appreciate the work they have done and recognize that they are volunteers…

“It’s really not fair for a member of a commission to demand that he do things so quickly without being able to take into account the scoring criteria and the way he chooses projects. The ranking criteria also did not match what was identified in the RFP, which is disappointing. The scoring system should be transparent and it is unfair to change the criteria after proposals have been submitted. »

Regarding Pratt, Councilman Echeveria commented, “She invested a lot of her own money to gradually do a lot of these murals all over the city of Merced. I would probably give it the highest priority in this area. She has already spent a lot of money to help beautify this town.

Local oil painter, Eddie Rodriguez also encouraged board members to go back and consider all of the submitted proposals that were submitted.

“Some submissions weren’t even considered,” he said, adding that individual artists were encouraged to submit multiple submissions. “They only chose one per artist. There have been several proposals where people have done the groundwork to make these proposals, but they have never been seen.

A new request for “definancing”

Pratt also expressed frustration with the city’s graffiti reduction program.

“The city has contracted environmental compliance services since 2014 starting at $178,000 per year with an increase every year since then. The amount is now $203,000, or more than $16,000 on a monthly basis. Funding since 2014 has hovered around $2 million while Merced’s last budgeted art project dates back to 2011, more than a decade ago. We need to reallocate that money to public art.

Environmental Compliance Resources, owned by Atwater Mayor Paul Creighton, has a contract with the city set to expire in 2023 and, in its fifth year, is being compensated at a monthly rate of $16,959.75.

At Monday night’s meeting, community members also expressed their views on the city’s contract with the graffiti program.

“I would love to see the graffiti reduction program implemented,” local artist Goku McAfee said via voicemail. “He gets $200,000 a year and $16,000 a month. I think those funds need to be reallocated to the artists. Think about it – $16,000 goes to artists and art that could be done and done.

Although not on the agenda, Councilman Echeveria and Councilwoman Bertha Perez also spoke a few words about the reduction contract with the city and whether or not the allocation of more of money to murals and public art would keep areas of the city free of graffiti.

“We’re trying to find funding, we’re trying to find money,” Echeveria said in reference to more community artwork. “If we have a persistent problem with the graffiti and we use the discount contract to fix it, and a week later it’s back, why not invest the money with an artist, put a painting mural and see how it goes. We might get more for our money.

Councilor Bertha Perez echoed Echeverias’ statements, adding that a mural instead of an empty wall could potentially prevent graffiti and thus reduce the need for graffiti reduction.

City Council is expected to continue budget discussions leading to the City Manager’s proposed budget in the coming weeks and final budget approval at the end of June.

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