The group that’s pushing the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County to enforce laws requiring set-aside funds for public art funding recently sent candidates in the November election a questionnaire about the issue.
In Pittsburgh, a 1977 law stipulates that 1 percent of the costs of publicly funded building or renovations projects go toward including art; the figure in the county’s more recently enacted law is 2 percent. Many U.S. cities enforce such laws, but locally, neither law is currently enforced.
All candidates for mayor and city council were sent the questionnaires, though not all responded.
The most prominent candidate to respond was Democratic mayoral nominee Bill Peduto, a long-time outspoken supporter of the arts. Others to respond included Tony Ceoffe and Deb Gross, the presumed front-runners in the race to replace city Councilor Pat Dowd in District 7; and District 4 incumbent Natalia Rudiak.
District 8 city-council candidate Mordecai Trebelow did not answer individual questions, but rather made a statement of general support for the arts and a series of questions for clarifications about the questionnaire itself.
And in responding to a briefer questionnaire about the issue earlier this year, Trebelow's opponent, District 8 candidate Dan Gilman, said, "I agree with you 100% that we need to be more aggressive with the Percent for Public Art ... on Council I will be a public voice to champion this cause. ... Public Art must be a component of every project in the City."
Here are the questions from the most recent questionnaire, followed by answers by each candidate, all of which date from last week:
Question 1. The “municipal construction or renovation of public buildings,” designated in the current set-aside ordinance does not include development using public funds by Pittsburgh authorities such as the SEA [Sports and Exhibition Authority], Port Authority, URA [Urban Redevelopment Authority], Water and Sewage [Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority], and the Pittsburgh Housing Authority. If elected, would you promote and support the expansion of the ordinance to include development constructed by these authorities?
Peduto: “Public art not only beautifies our built environment, inspires and educates, it has an economic benefit. A study by ArtServe Michigan found that for every dollar invested in nonprofit arts and cultural groups a return of $51 came back to Michigan’s economy through spending on such items as rent, programs, travel and salaries. Furthermore, an article in The Atlantic Cities found that, dollar-for-dollar, ‘investments in public art may provide the highest financial returns of any funds committed to an aspect of a transit project.’ As Mayor, I would want the city to reap the highest benefit from investing in public art by encouraging all authorities to participate.”
Ceoffe: “I am committed to doing what I can to ensure this important piece of legislation is enforced. We can no longer accept excuses of ‘money is tight’ or ‘there is no one to enforce this.’ I would also be eager to revisit the original legislation from the 1970s and promote possible expansion of the ordinance to ensure that the percentage is appropriated not just for new buildings being constructed but for all public projects costing $50,000 or more throughout our city neighborhoods. … This could include any projects by City of Pittsburgh authorities when funding is requested and approved through city council. In cases where public funding is not requested through council, however, the ordinance on its own cannot be enforced on the city authorities or city-county joint authorities involved in such developments. Instead, the board of directors of each authority would need to pass resolutions by majority vote to compel the agency to be bound by city ordinance. Councilman Peduto has stated in the past that he supports the inclusion of public-art allocations from all publicly-funded projects and I am committed to working along with the administration and art-advocacy organizations to encourage each agency’s board of directors to participate in this effort and propose resolutions that would bind their organizations to this ordinance going forward.”
Gross: “I would advocate for and support the expansion of the ordinance to include development constructed by these authorities. However, before expanding on the ordinance we must first work on concrete solutions to implementation of the current ordinance. I am committed to working with Council and the incoming Mayoral administration on further implementation of the ordinance.”
Rudiak: “I have seen first hand how public art can bring a community together. Before I was elected to council I spearheaded the creation and community process of a Sprout Fund mural on Brownsville Road; I have since worked closely with artists on everything from beautifying vacant store fronts to enhancing our public spaces across South Pittsburgh. I’m a believer in public art as both a tool for building community and for economic development.”
Question 2. Government contracts for city and county residents: (a) What percentage of W/MBE [women- and minority-owned business] contracts for artists, construction, and fabrication would youpromote and make enforceable as a part of the implementation of this law? And (b)What budget cap would you designate in keeping public art contracts open to only Pittsburgh and Allegheny County residents? (As an example, premier public-art programs in Seattle and King County, Wash., consider applications largely from Washington state residents only.)
Peduto: Response pending.
Ceoffe: “(2a) Upon taking office, I would work closely with my colleagues on council, the administration, and the city’s M/WBE commission to ensure equal opportunity is provided in the awarding of contracts. Any exact percentages I would promote would first need to be hashed out through discussion with fellow council members and the commission to determine what would be agreeable to all parties, and whether it could fall in line with Pittsburgh’s legislated goals for all W/MBE contracts city-wide. Even more importantly, feasibility of meeting those percentages is also an important factor to consider. … If we set these goals, we need to be able to meet them. So, beyond simply setting the W/MBE percentage goals, I would also support efforts to actually provide any necessary training and resources for those women- and minority-run businesses with the potential to compete for contracts in order to ensure they will meet the strict qualifications.” (2b) I reached out to a public-art project manager at 4Culture in Seattle, the cultural-services agency for King County, Wash. At 4Culture, the decision on how broadly to issue a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) is made on a case-by-case basis, with no specific budget cap firmly established. … In general, it is certainly considered best practice in the field to issue calls for artists nationally, however, when there is a shorter timeline, a desire for a local flavor to the art, a limited budget, or an eagerness to engage emerging artists, narrowing the invitation more toward local or regional talent is simply more practical and/or appropriate. If a majority of a project’s budget is spent on travel for an out-of-area artist, little may be left for the project itself. That said, there have been several instances in which our own city council has placed residency requirements on public projects only to later find out that these specific provisions are in violation of state law. As your councilman, it would be my responsibility to draft legislation that will not be overturned at the state level. …”
Gross: “This needs to be determined after thorough review of the current budgetary constraints in the City. Under Act 47 we must thoroughly examine all new expenditures before putting a cap on any contracts in the City.”
Rudiak: “(2a) It is critical that everyone shares in economic development opportunities and in order to do this, we must make sure that we are proactively looking at W/MBE contracts so that everyone has the opportunity to compete on a level playing field. I look forward to learning from artists and advocates about best practices from across the country and implementing the highest standards in reflecting the diversity of our city. (2b) We should look at Pittsburgh first when it comes to awarding these contracts.”
Question 3.Would you support a distribution system of public-art dollars throughout the city, making sure diverse communities have public art in their neighborhoods, or should set-aside dollars remain localized to where development projects are built and constructed?
Peduto: “Seattle, Wash., pioneered city investments in public art through their use of a 1% set-aside for public art in all city-funded construction projects and economic development initiatives. The funding stream ensures that every development project incorporates community-approved works of art that add to the long-term value of the project. As Mayor, I would want to replicate Seattle. This funding stream, when implemented in Pittsburgh, would make up the bulk of the annual budget of the Pittsburgh Art Corps [see answer to question 4] and would have a multiplier effect, paying dividends over time as an attractor for more economic development.”
Ceoffe: “We absolutely should not continue to pump money into thriving neighborhoods while others still struggle. When crafting new legislation or amending existing legislation regarding the Percent for Art law, I would be sure to engage the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, Pittsburgh’s Art Commission, and the Pittsburgh Percent 4 Art Campaign to ensure public art is a more integral component of land-use development as it applies to all of our neighborhoods. I have also addressed the need to revisit Pittsburgh’s current zoning codes. Actually incorporating public art ordinances as a fundamental piece of zoning code is something that I am committed to addressing in the months and years ahead.”
Gross: “Yes, I believe in bringing arts to the community. As the founding executive director of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Alliance, currently GPAC, I understand how our arts organizations bring economic prosperity to the region and to our neighborhoods.”
Rudiak: “Too often Pittsburgh’s southern neighborhoods are overlooked and I’m committed to distributing public art dollars equitably and fairly so that the entire city benefits.”
Qustion 4. How would you make the application and competitive process of procuring public art contracts an open, transparent, and public one—for artists, construction, fabrication, and for the neighborhoods in
which the public artwork will be sited?
Peduto: “As Mayor, I will create The Pittsburgh Art Corps .. as a service-learning project funded through the City budget in partnership with the Art Commission and arts-centered foundations and nonprofits to provide 25 to 50 paying jobs that create, maintain, and restore public art in specific neighborhoods throughout the City. I would hold the Arts Corps to the same standard of transparency as I would hold any other city government entity.
Transparency leads to accountability and innovation. … Pittsburgh needs a world-class open-data policy.”
Ceoffe: “The city needs to do a better job of making all of its procurement-contracting processes more transparent and open — not just public art, but including public art. … As a member of council, I would ensure that all RFQs and application information is regularly posted to our district website … to ensure that any interested businesses and artists have the opportunity to bid on publically-funded projects. … I have previously presented as part of my general platform a plan to implement an open-data policy for the entire City of Pittsburgh, as described on my campaign website (NeighborsForTonyCeoffe.com). This policy should certainly include the public availability of information regarding current RFQs/RFPs, as well as bid packages submitted by companies vying for contract awards for publicly-funded projects.”
Gross: “Making the process transparent and open requires us to create objective criteria for judging contracts. This requires an open and public bidding process. As a member of Council I will advocate for objective criteria not only in arts contracts but also for other development contracts in the City.”
Rudiak: “I am committed to transparency in government. We need to treat the application process as a community organizer would so that we are actively seeking a diverse array of applicants.”
To see the Percent for Art petition, see here.