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Cortez Public Art Committee takes shape

Group will advise council on art contracts

Cortez could soon have a new committee to respond to local artists’ concerns about getting paid for public artwork.

In March, a group of Cortez artists signed a petition asking the city to create a committee to advise them on matters relating to public art. Since then, several of those artists, along with members of the ad hoc Cortez Mural Committee, have been working with Cortez Public Library Director Eric Ikenouye to figure out what such a committee would look like. On Wednesday, they decided on a name, membership size and list of responsibilities, which Ikenouye plans to bring before the city council for approval.

The move toward creating what members call the Cortez Public Art Committee came from several local artists’ frustration with the city’s request that they loan their work to the new City Hall building for free. Cortez artist Sonja Horoshko said that request was a sign the city council needed help dealing with public art.

“We deserve to get paid,” she said. “This is a table – you pay for it. That’s a TV – you pay for that. You pay for the artwork.”

Ikenouye took over some of the duties of Grants and Special Projects Administrator Chris Burkett in April, in addition to his library position. Horoshko and fellow artist Heidi Bruegger attended Wednesday’s meeting, along with Cortez Retail Enhancement Association director Mark Drudge and Greg Kemp of the Montezuma Community Economic Development Association.

According to Ikenouye’s proposed list of duties for the group, its primary responsibility will be to “advise city council and staff with respect to all aspects of planning, programming, procurement, installation, operations, maintenance, restoration, and promotion of city-owned public art projects.” The committee would also create a standardized process for the city to contract with artists for displays, working with city boards when appropriate.

On Wednesday, the group decided the committee should consist of four artists, two business representatives and one city representative.

“I’m adamant: Keep it small,” Drudge said. “You get too big, nothing’s going to get done.”

But Horoshko said the committee should also be able to appoint small ad hoc committees for individual projects, to be made up of experts in the relevant artistic genres.

Ikenouye and Horoshko also presented three possible mission statements for the committee, which Ikenouye agreed to narrow down to one by the end of July.

Some city officials have already expressed support for the Public Arts Committee. At a July 17 meeting about the Main Street median project, City Manager Shane Hale said he hoped for the committee’s help to install public art on the medians. But the members who met on Wednesday acknowledged that some of their goals may not go over well with the city, particularly Horoshko’s idea for a lease program that would pay artists $50 per month per displayed piece.

“That would be $12,000 a year, which would be over our budget,” Ikenouye said.

Horoshko suggested there might be too much artwork on display at City Hall right now. But she also said the prices could be up for negotiation.

“You have to get this dialogue going so that we can get it solved,” she said.

Ikenouye said he hoped to put the formation of the committee on the city council meeting agenda for Aug. 8.

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