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Money rolls in for Art in Public Places

An elaborate tile and ceramic fountain by Jay Gogin outside the Key West Police Department headquarters, 1604 N. Roosevelt Blvd., was supervised by the Art in Public Places Board. The fountain, however, arrived before the city's 1 percent set-side funding mechanism was approved.
An elaborate tile and ceramic fountain by Jay Gogin outside the Key West Police Department headquarters, 1604 N. Roosevelt Blvd., was supervised by the Art in Public Places Board. The fountain, however, arrived before the city's 1 percent set-side funding mechanism was approved.

Key West's building boom -- a slew of new hotels, an $18 million city hall, a new fire station and a waterfront park under way -- also means the city's Art in Public Places program is flush with cash.

Nearly $300,000 is in the bank to spend on public art. The money accumulated over the past four years from 11 projects whose owners were required by law to pitch in 1 percent of new construction costs on art.

Additional development on the island has the project on its way to having $1 million, said Richard Tallmadge, chairman of the Art in Public Places Board.

This week, the Art in Public Places Board agreed to take steps toward hiring a part-time administrator, starting with creating a job description and writing up a proposal.

"Nothing's going out yet," Tallmadge said. "The wheels are in motion to find this person. Is it a consultant, a coordinator or an administrator?"

City Planning Director Thaddeus Cohen advised the board to look for a consultant to hire rather than ask the City Commission to create a new position.

"Government tends not to want to add folks," he said.

Also, Cohen said, the funding stream will ebb and flow along with development. The position would be paid from the Art in Public Places funding.

Key West's Art in Public Places goes back several years but the 1 percent set-aside from new building arrived in 2011.

Only major developments of at least $500,000 have to participate by either cutting the city a check or taking care of the art requirement themselves by commissioning a project.

Key West's public art ordinance also allows spending up to 15 percent on cultural events, such as the Chalk Festival, where artists use pavement as a canvas for temporary chalk paintings.

Monroe County's Art in Public Places administrator warned the Key West version to find someone who understands the Keys' unique challenges for outdoor art.

"We have a hostile environment for public art: The sun, the salt, the water," said Liz Young, executive director of the Florida Keys Council of the Arts, which oversees the County's Art in Public Places program.

"You need to hire a public art professional who knows what they're doing," Young said.

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