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City needs more public art, report says

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston needs to build on its collection of sculptures, monuments, murals and other public art, a consultant's report says.

But the city also needs to set up a public art commission and design review board, hire a public art manager and start a public art fund to help enlarge and maintain that collection, the report from Renee Piechocki says.

Piechocki and the McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory were hired early this year under a National Endowment for the Arts Our Town grant to inventory the city's public art and develop guidelines for maintaining and building the collection. Her August report was made public Monday.

City Council members agreed Monday evening to apply for another grant, for up to $280,000, from ArtPlace to implement major parts of Piechocki's report.

"This grant opportunity came shortly after we received the public art plan," said Councilwoman Susie Salisbury, also a vice president with the Charleston Area Alliance. "We pulled out some of the pieces of the plan particularly suited to the grant.

"We want to form a public art commission and we want a full-time staff member, so there would be funding for 18 months."

City Manager David Molgaard said the job might pay between $40,000 and $45,000 a year. "That [grant money] would be temporary funding. That would get us started. After that, we would have to fund that though our general fund. I suggested to the committee I would recommend we fund such a position."

Other grant money would also go toward conserving some existing art that needs immediate work, Salisbury said, such as the Henry Gassaway Davis statue in Davis Park and Lincoln Walks at Midnight on the Capitol grounds.

"There would also be some funding for new temporary public art," she said. "That's their recommendation, that we focus more on temporary public art, 18 months to three years. So we would focus on FestivALL 2014, which will also be their 10th anniversary.

"But there would also be some funds set aside for public art in civic space projects, such as the new East End park, Kanawha City along MacCorkle Avenue, Slack Plaza, the Riverfront, any other streetscape, the bike lane on Kanawha Boulevard. We want to make sure [public art] is incorporated in the civic space."

In other business Monday, council members:

* Approved a bill to shift after-hours parking on Virginia Street downtown from the north to the south side of the street. The bill allows free parking between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. on the south side of Virginia Street from Laidley Street to Capitol Street.

But it also eliminates, but does not replace, the free parking that has been allowed on the north side between Capitol and Hale streets. There were about 10 spaces in the block.

Mayor Danny Jones, who previously said he asked for the change to help the new Recovery Sports Grill and the Ramada Charleston Downtown, said he plans to introduce another bill to add parking in the Capitol-Hale block.

"You only lose three spaces," Jones said. "You gain spaces on the south side. There will probably be some consternation by a business owner at the corner of Capitol and Virginia. So I'll ask a bill be introduced to add parking on the south side between Capitol and Hale."

* Approved without discussion a bill to amend the East End Community Renewal Plan by banning certain "undesirable" businesses from the Washington Street business corridor.

The measure, which originated months ago in the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority, bans adult businesses, bail bondsmen, money-for-gold establishments, check cashing services, firearm sales, gambling establishments, pawn shops, pay-as-you-go phone sales and storage facilities.

Reach Jim Balow at balow@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.


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