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Hermiston adopts public art plan

Jade McDowell

East Oregonian

Published on August 9, 2016 6:33PM


Whether it’s a watermelon mural or a statue of the mayor, the city of Hermiston now has a plan for how to handle public art.

The city council adopted an official public art plan Monday. The plan does not allocate money, but rather lays a groundwork of policies and suggestions for community organizations to raise money for projects.

“This plan will sit on a shelf and go nowhere if the community does not pick it up,” assistant city manager Mark Morgan said.

Included in the plan are 37 suggested sites for art installations, and five themes for public art in Hermiston to be tied to: water, agriculture, heritage, transportation and watermelons. Morgan said the themes could be loosely interpreted.

“We’re not saying you literally have to have water in the art, or literally depict a drop of water,” he said.

He used the hypothetical example of a someone who wanted to build a statue of Mayor David Drotzmann. Now, they could consult the plan to see the community’s most preferred locations for a statue, see where the mayor might fit into one of the five themes (heritage?), study the rules about commissioning and maintaining the art, get permission from the city council and apply for a special revenue fund where the city would keep track of donations for them and possibly leverage it as matching funds for a grant to put a statue of Drotzmann in front of city hall.

“Could we raise money to not have a statue of him in front of city hall?” councilor Jackie Myers asked jokingly.

Morgan said some of the actual ideas on the list were already being eyed by service clubs in town — Hermiston’s breakfast Kiwanis Club, for example, said they would like to start raising money for uplighting and landscaping around the old Armand Larive Middle School arch on Ridgeway Avenue behind the library.

The plan was put together by consultant Rebecca Couch, the Community Enhancement Committee and the Desert Arts Council, with feedback from the community to rank the most popular of the 37 proposed locations.

“Everyone has a big focus on putting art downtown,” Morgan said.

That could be functional art such as decorative benches and lamp posts, but Morgan said several cities also have a popular rotating art program where they build empty sculpture plinths, and artists can get approval to place sculptures there temporarily while they are for sale.

Drotzmann said even though there is no money allocated for art in the plan itself, it is possible that the city could use it as a guide to funnel some urban renewal money toward a city-funded art project or two downtown. Still, he said outside groups were needed if Hermiston was going to start putting art in more locations around town.

“All those philanthropic groups out there who would like to help make Hermiston more livable through public art, please come forward,” he said. “We have some ideas for you.”

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Contact Jade McDowell at jmcdowell@eastoregonian.com or 541-564-4536.



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