After A Year Without Public Art Funding, Minneapolis To Formalize Percent For Art

In this year’s city budget, Mayor Betsy Hodges of Minneapolis, Minn. earmarked exactly zero dollars for public art.

The decision was a break from tradition, and sparked criticism from art advocates and City Council members alike. Hodges offered this response at the time.

Snapshot of Minneapolis' City Budget

Snapshot of Minneapolis’ adopted city budget

But it might not happen again. Last Thursday, the Zoning and Planning committee of Minneapolis’ City Council approved a percent-for-art ordinance, which would set aside 1.5 percent of the City’s net debt bond for dedicated public art funding.

Stay put, I googled “net debt bond” for you. According to this corny Powerpoint (Minneapolis is apparently a fan), net debt bonds are “property tax-supported bonds issued to finance general infrastructure improvements.”

So, essentially, public art funding will be tied to the funding of capital projects in Minneapolis, which is typical of percent-for-art rules across the country. Proponents of the ordinance have been pushing the following talking points: public art funding will grow as infrastructure improvements go, and shrink as they shrink; the cost will be easy to calculate and predict; and it will be a consistent part of the city budget each year.

It’s this last point that is especially relevant for Minneapolis, considering the public art-shaped hole of Fiscal Year 2015. Per the legislative text, the ordinance would actually formalize an “informal tradition” that has been in effect since 1992. But the fluctuation and uncertainty of this funding source makes it hard for the city to plan for public art projects (many of which take longer than one fiscal year to design, build, and install).

Minneapolis’ full City Council will vote on the ordinance on Friday morning.