Artwork for all: Williamsburg City Council discusses proposed Public Art Council

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(WYDaily/Courtesy of Williamsburg Economic Development Office)
(WYDaily/Courtesy of Williamsburg Economic Development Office)

The city of Williamsburg may be getting a new public art installation soon.

During a work session on Monday, Jan. 11, City Council discussed plans to establish a nine-member Public Art Council to oversee the creation of new art works in the city.

Economic Development Director, Michele DeWitt, gave a presentation discussing the initiative, saying creation of a public art fund which would be 1% of the annual Capital Improvement Plan budget.

The fund would be established via a one-time allocation of $165,000 from COVID-19 Tourism Resiliency Funds, according to DeWitt.

The Public Art Council would have the authorization to spend 10% of the figure annually, however, it would need City Council approval to spend more in a given year.

The Public Art Council itself would comprise of two City Council members, a member of the Architectural Review Board, a planning commission member, the Economic Development Agency, the Williamsburg Area Arts Commission, a member of the Tourism Development Grant Review Committee, and two appointees from the community.

For guidelines and criteria concerning public art in Williamsburg, DeWitt said the installation should “celebrate the beauty, history, character and aspirations of the city.”

She brought up examples of public art installations from other communities in the state, including murals in towns like Hampton and Staunton. According to DeWitt, each town issued requests for proposals, resulting in the mural in Hampton commissioned for $10,000 while Staunton’s cost $7,000.

Each city council member then commented on the project proposal, beginning with Mayor Doug Pons.

“I think a lot of people who think of public art often are concerned that we’re going to have some gaudy, ugly piece of art somewhere, but I think what you’ve proposed will help ensure that that doesn’t happen,” he said. “I think we’ll have something tasteful.”

Councilwoman Barbara Ramsey said, “It’s not always going to be exactly what everyone likes, but we have a lot of locations in the cities that we can separate out different types of art.”

She pointed out how it isn’t just Merchants Square up for consideration for the art project but anywhere in the city where the community can benefit from the installation.

Councilman Ted Maslin suggested the art installation could possibly be a rotating attraction, allowing multiple pieces to be shown while also keeping public interest.

Councilman Caleb Rogers said he liked this suggestion, saying the Public Art Council can help drive art in a certain area. He also brought up how the installation could replace the Confederate monument the city removed from Bicentennial Park last year.

RELATED STORY: The Confederate memorial in Williamsburg is no more

City Manager Andrew Trivette said a proposal for the art installation will be created for consideration before the city council’s February meeting.

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