Local legislation on art causes controversy - Tucson News Now

Local legislation on art causes controversy

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - It may not fit your definition of art, but a new sculpture to go with the improved Grant and Oracle intersection fits under Tucson and Pima County legislation, which requires one percent of a roadway project's budget to be dedicated to public art.

We've gotten a lot of comments on our Facebook page about the $90,000 project since we first reported about it Monday.  The piece by public artists Hank Saxe and Cynthia Patterson reflects elegant desert plants and offers a tribute to the Pascua Yaqui people.  The sculpture is also supposed to be reminiscent of some of the first boundary markers between the U.S. And Mexico in the 1850's. 

But it's the price tag commenters find less than beautiful.  Several call it a waste of money, saying that money should be put into street repairs, not street art. 

The Regional Transportation Authority says the artwork is part of a master plan [PDF], which included input from both local artists and the public back in 2010, which involved the Tucson-Pima Arts Council.  Tucson is also not alone in requiring one percent of construction projects to go towards public art.  According to the National Assembly Of State Arts Agencies, similar programs are active in 25 states, which include both physical and performing arts.  The one-percent concept for public art funding dates back to at least 1959, when Philadelphia became the first city in the United States to make an art-funding requirement as part of the development process.

It hasn't come without controversy.  In Tucson alone, the giant red sculpture outside the main library downtown has attracted consistant criticism over the years.  A few weeks ago, a Tempe artist unveiled nude sculptures outside an apartment complex on Ft. Lowell Road.  No public money was used for the statues, which are on private property, and the Tempe artist did not seek approval from Tucson's design review board.

As for the artwork on Grant Road, more pieces will be installed as it's widened.

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