A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Art dilemma dogs Albany council

Written September 21st, 2015 by Hasso Hering
Councilor Floyd Collins, left, talks to Mayor Sharon Konopa as other councilors listen Monday.

Councilor Floyd Collins, left, talks to Mayor Sharon Konopa as other councilors listen Monday.

The Albany City Council has a dilemma concerning “public art.” It was unable to resolve this problem Monday and will try again when it meets at 7:15 Wednesday night. If the issue is not resolved soon, it may hold up the design of the city’s new police headquarters and main fire station.

The problem is that city law requires something that the majority of the council does not want to do. That is to spend 1 percent of the money appropriated for those buildings on public art to be placed either in the buildings themselves or some other public place.

In this case the ordinance demands that based on construction estimates for both buildings together, $200,288 be spent on art, which Councilor Floyd Collins thinks would be way too much. He’s not alone.

One answer is to amend the “one percent art ordinance,” adopted in 1998, to calculate the 1 percent based only on the parts of the police and fire buildings open to the public. That would reduce the art appropriation to $9,779 for the cop shop and $7,700 for the fire hall.

But the reduced amounts would hardly pay for what has been proposed.

The Albany Arts Commission is charged by the ordinance with acquiring the items that would count as art. For the fire station, the Arts Commission backed a proposal to restore an antique fire engine and display it in the lobby. Councilor Dick Olsen says the restoration would cost at least $35,000. Not only that, but he’d like another antique engine also owned by the fire department to be displayed as well. Fire Chief John Bradner says the lobby in the new station would not be nearly big enough.

As for the police station, the Arts Commission endorsed a plan for an outdoor entry plaza with seating and a water feature that would also handle storm water from the building, plus some form of sculpture. (Presumably people would not be seated there in a rainstorm watching the water feature work.) And Police Chief Mario Lattanzio is worried lest art-related expenses cut into the functional elements of the building itself.

One answer — and here comes the editorial — is to amend the art ordinance by completely exempting these two projects, and to rely on the buildings themselves to count as art. As the available designs by the talented architects of the Mackenzie firm show, the structures and grounds will dress up their respective parts of the city all by themselves. There won’t be a need for anything that has been arbitrarily labeled as art.

And if someone wants to raise the money to restore one, two or three fire engines, let them go ahead and try. (hh)

This story has been changed from the original version, which contained an error on what the Arts Commission had recommended. (hh)

18 responses to “Art dilemma dogs Albany council”

  1. Bob Woods says:

    When projects are scoped and estimated, a minimum of 10% is allowed for contingences. Often that amount can be significantly more, if the project is unusual or complex.

    So how does 1% for art fit into that? Not even a sneeze, much less a hiccup.

    History recognizes the civilizations of our past often by their art. The Roman Forum, Coliseum, and Greek structures that we revere today are not because of their utilitarian design, but because of their art.

    A couple of weeks ago we had a death in the family. My wife and I were there early as we attended the sick with the rest of the family.

    As is often the case with those who are dying there are good days and bad. But there is often clarity and a presence that comes before death.

    That happened to us. Aunt Carolyn, age 90, had been there in and out for several days. But then we were graced with a full day of clarity. A day when the interactions were full and warm.

    She asked for music:. Classical, “not that hippie stuff” as she called it. I took out my cell phone and cued up all the classical I had – a couple of hours worth. As I started it I mentioned that music was nice.

    “Music is essential” she said in a voice that was stronger and more determined than I had heard for a long while.

    The next day she died.

    She was right. Music is essential. So is poetry, even if you don’t read it. Novels, sculpture, painting, acting and the rest. You see, even ants build structures to support their societies, as do humans. But only humans create art.

    So why is there argument over1%. It’s not going to reduce your tax bill. And even if it did you probably wouldn’t notice that change of a dollar or so. It’s about making our endeavors something more than the mere utilitarian. Its about being more than ants, apes and the other animals. It’s about leaving something behind that has the ability to stir the soul for ourselves, children and grandchildren.

    Now I fully expect that Shadle, Cordier, Carrick and the rest will scream about this being a gigantic waste of taxpayers money. Yep, that entire 1% out of the100%.

    Aunt Carolyn was as conservative as they come. She and I would tease each other over politics all the time. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t care for each other. Because she had it ABSOLUTELY right:

    Music, and the other arts, are essential.

    • James Carrick says:

      Woods: “Now I fully expect that Shadle, Cordier, Carrick and the rest will scream about this being a gigantic waste of taxpayers money.” Now Woods is clairvoyant? Not so fast….

      Speaking for myself…..Bob, you really should clean your crystal ball. Better yet, go into the archives and read my comment on Hasso’s August 27 article (Police and fire issue: What is art?) where I suggested a way to have a variety of art on display in our new public safety buildings (without a 1% limitation) at ZERO COST to Albany taxpayers. Bob doesn’t reside in Albany and he advocates spending (other people’s) tax dollars.

      However, Woods might be onto something here. The city could play some nice, soothing (certainly not that hippie stuff) music through a modest sound system. The music Nurse Ratched played in the psych ward in “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” (Charmaine – Jack Nietzsche) seems appropriate :-) But that might not work for Bob….because it wouldn’t require the expenditure of OUR money.

      And Bob…..I’ll put my music collection up against yours any time….both in quantity and variety. Now, back to the Mahler symphony I was enjoying before Wood’s comment disturbed my ignorant bliss.

      • Bob Woods says:

        Mahler, romantic and “Teutonic”, with some power. Hated by the Nazi’s, which speaks well of him.

        I lean towards the intricacies of Chopin, but my favorite composer remains George Gershwin. What a great American. Made his living writing pop hits, but went on to fundamentally change music with introducing jazz into the classical form. Died way too young.

        You made your pitch to how provide some art and I remember that. You don’t even seem to know that the city brings in temporary art exhibits all the time.

        This is about permanent art, owned by the people, that serves as an ongoing exposure in it’s own right, but also remains in those periods when the travelling exhibits are not there.

        Now why don’t you just tell people what you truly believe. That public ownership of ANYTHING is usually wrong. That you oppose it as a matter of course. That things like parks should be through private ownership, subject to what the owner chooses to charge. Ditto for art. Regulations like building codes should be abolished. pretty much everything except courts to hear lawsuits between folks, police, and maybe fire but not if it can be provided by s private sector provider.

        Pew Research in 2014 classified 14% of voters libertarian “who both say they are libertarian and know the definition of the term.”. I assume they wanted to screen out folks who like the word but don’t understand the political philosophy.

        That means that somewhere around 80% folks are not.

        • James Carrick says:

          Bob, if you can’t engage in an honest, open discussion with your opponents, I’ll be happy to point out your shortcomings, beginning with the entire 5th paragraph above (“Now why don’t you just tell people …….”) where you “interpret” what I wrote. My writing does not require interpretation.

          I have NEVER opposed “public ownership” of parks, nor have I advocated ANY opposition to our current park system(s), local to national. On the contrary. Public art? I’m not against publicly owned art and you can’t show me one instance where I ever said otherwise. Do I think there might be better ways to facilitate artwork in our public buildings? Yes I do, and my suggestion late last month is but one possible way.

          Where did you EVER get the idea I favor elimination of building codes? You’re delusional. I have spent most of my adult life in commercial construction, building everything from chairlifts to paper mills…complying with building codes in one way or another every step of the way. I know more about the Uniform Building Code than Bob Woods ever will.

          Bob, your misrepresentation of my views is not accidental. It’s deliberate. If you believe what you’ve written, you’re the crackpot….not me. Tell us more about the definition of “libertarian” while you’re at it. Be sure to cite your sources. One of your fellow left wing nuts claimed “libertarianism” is a “singular form of government.” which I refuted in a letter to the editor to the ADH not long ago:


          For more information about libertarianism: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarianism

          Forms of government? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Forms_of_government

          These are all good jumping off points for those interested in these topics. Don’t take my word for it….see for yourself. And do yourself a favor…stay away from Bob Wood’s “interpretations/propaganda.

  2. Rolland Brower says:

    The more apparent slippery slope is The City wanting to make their own rules to live by yet when a developer comes to the city with a project they are required to live by the rules. There is a broken convex mirror a private property owner was required to pay for on Sherman St NE next to the Dave Clark Path. The City required it, it’s been broken for over a year, was broke within 6 months of being installed. The agreement was the private property owner had to pay for it (and a few other things); then, when installed, the City would maintain it. The point is, the City I forcing rules they made, not giving the private property owner a choice when they developed their private residence.

  3. Bill Kapaun says:

    Did the voters enact the “1% ordinance” or was this enacted by the city council?

  4. Jim Engel says:

    So Mr woods, along with art are you suggesting piped in “Muzak” for the lobbies of the new buildings as it is essential for our well being? I doubt that people needing police action would take time to ponder art…They want a cop and they want him NOW, not art! Being a “cohort” I’ll break ranks on this one & go with the Albany Arts Commission recommendation for the amounts. JE

    • Hasso Hering says:

      Jim, I made a mistake on the arts panel’s recommendation. It did not recommend the reduced amounts. The proposals it endorsed would cost more than the 1 percent based only on the parts of the buildings open to the public. I’ve corrected the story. (hh)

    • Bob Woods says:

      You know Jim, I reread what I wrote and nowhere did I suggest piped in Muzak or piped in music of any kind.

      Do I believe that music is an art? Yes. Do I believe art is a good thing that enhances people lives? Yes.

      Apparently you think art is a bad thing. You have that right. But you should also consider that probably 99% of the folks in the world disagree with you.

      The only folks that I know of that might agree with you are the Taliban in Afghanistan and ISIS in Syria. Those folks have spent their time blowing up ancient buildings and art because of their sick beliefs.

      Now I doubt seriously that you agree with those thugs. So do you believe that art is a good thing that should be celebrated and encouraged in our society, or not? Or is it just that you believe that art should only be owned by private individuals, and that public ownership and display of art is immoral?

  5. Warren Beeson says:

    Maybe they should just pull an “Obama” and spend what they like – to heck with the law. Who’s going to enforce it anyway? I doubt the police chief will arrest the councilors. The most valid point is that of, “why does the city stand by its rules with private developers but want to change them when its their ox being gored?”. But, as a practical matter one wonders why they don’t just change the ordinance. Isn’t that what city councilors do?

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      “Isn’t that what city councilors do?”

      Yes – That is what some of the councilors want to do. In my case, I have no problems with the 1% as written. I also have no problems with the arts commission being the arbiter of taste as to what constitutes art. The ordinance also says the 1% does not have to be spent entirely in the facilities that are being built. Bob Woods’ 1st two paragraphs above are spot on IMO.

  6. Richard Vannice says:

    How many of the present council were in office when the passed the “Art” ordinance? Did anyone even stop to think how much 1% of a project could be?

    • Bob Woods says:

      So, once again we see that folks have not really been paying attention. This is from the Oregon Arts Commission website:

      ‘Oregon’s Percent for Art legislation guides the acquisition of the state’s public art collection, which includes more than 2,500 works of art.


      Public art program discussions began in 1975. Initial legislation applied solely to public construction budgets in Marion and Polk counties. In 1977, the program extended to state buildings in all Oregon counties. Oregon Revised Statutes set aside no less than 1% of funds for the acquisition of public-facing artwork in all state building construction plans with budgets over $100,000.

      Since then, the Percent for Art program has placed high quality, accessible, and permanent art in public places. The program remains dedicated to the enhancement of public environments and the improvement of the character and quality of state buildings.”

      This has been around for almost 40 years at the state level. Never really generated any controversy in the public. Even in Albany. Except for the inevitable arguments over what is art and what is not (hint: it’s in the eye of the beholder).

  7. Dick Olsen says:

    The City of Albany fire department owns four outstanding antique fire engines, a1907 horse-drawn steam pumper, a1923 Seagrave, a 1927 American LaFrance and a 1947 Mack. To me it’s a shame and almost gross negligence that these historic fire engines are not on display for the public to enjoy. Some say art is in the eye of the beholder. To me, restored, or even original antique mechanical equipment is an art form. Fire engines come at the top of the list.

    My suggestion is that we spend the “1% for art” on expanding the display area in the new fire station to accommodate our historic fire equipment and use whats left over on the restoration of the fire engines. It wont be enough to restore them all, but, the Seagrave and the American LaFrance are more than presentable as is. The steam pumper needs a lot of work. However, it can be dusted off and can be a very interesting display as is until it’s restored.

    When will we ever have another chance like we have now to have a first class fire museum on the main street through town? Albany is working on making ourselves a point of historic interest rather than something you just drive through on the way to Corvallis. What better to attract the tourists interest than a really top notch fire museum?

    • Bill Kapaun says:

      So now the fire dept. is supposed to be in the museum business?

    • Bob Woods says:

      Good post Dick. I think celebrating our heritage, especially with finely make things like classic fire engines is a good thing.

      Folks just need to decide what they want to preserve for all people, not just rich folks who can afford to buy what they want.

      It’s no different than the Smithsonian Institution and the National Gallery of Art. Owned by the people and for the people. With access guaranteed to all, regardless of their race, creed, heritage, or economic status.

      What could be more American!


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