While Dana Hernandez’s response to the question is an adamant “yes,” many public artworks in Salt Lake City often go unnoticed — unless they too big to miss.
It’s not that there is a shortage of public art. The city’s growing collection includes more than 130 permanent artworks throughout the seven city council districts, according to saltlakepublicart.org. In fact, 18 new pieces of art were permanently installed along 300 South as part of Salt Lake’s Flying Objects public art series on April 14-15.
This marked the fifth — and final — installation of artwork for the series. Having four previous incarnations, Flying Objects has given multiple public artists the opportunity to submit work, said Hernandez, the public art program manager for the Salt Lake City Arts Council.
“I don’t think people give enough credit to the fact that (public art is) there and that the city actually financially supports and encourages this kind of a program,” she said. In recent interviews, Hernandez and two public artists detail the process of creating public art as well as the good it can bring to the community.
Commissioning public art
Hernandez’s approach to public art is an equitable one: While she strives to have art in as many places as possible, she also has to ensure that it’s distributed throughout all the city districts. Commissioning art can be accomplished in a few ways, a main one through the Redevelopment Agency of Salt Lake City, a program that works to revitalize downtown Salt Lake City.
There’s also the percent-for-art ordinance that sets aside 1 percent of public building construction costs for public art. Salt Lake City established this ordinance in 1984, and percent-for-art programs are currently active in 28 states and territories, according to nasaa-arts.org.
Once the scope of a project is defined, a call for artists is issued that, depending on the budget, can extend internationally, nationally or regionally. Public artists can then submit their project proposals or portfolio work to be considered by the Salt Lake Art Design Board, a five-member committee with experience in architecture and the arts. The board welcomes feedback from all involved stakeholders when making a decision, Hernandez said. Upon…