Public art advisory committee pushing for increased budget in Iowa City

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IOWA CITY, Iowa. (KCRG) - In the late '90s, funding for public art in Iowa City hovered around $100,000. Today, that number sits at $25,000, and the public art advisory committee in Iowa City is trying to change that.

"It makes our downtown a place that is more interesting and inviting to all kinds of people," Vero Rose Smith, the chairperson for the committee, said. "It gives people something to do if you don't necessarily want to shop, but it enhances the retail environment as well and beyond the downtown, public art can serve as a way for community to come together."

Smith, alongside the rest of the committee is hoping to influence Iowa City's City Council that increased funding is needed and overdue. Based on the way council member Rockne Cole spoke about the issue, it may not take much convincing.

"A really great city is defined by its beauty, by its art, by its commitment to its ideas as its expressed in public art," Cole said. "We're really excited to see what's in store but we are going to put our money where our mouth is. It's not only about just saying we love public, art it's about providing those dollars so people can actually enjoy the public art and also produce it."

After a preliminary meeting with city council members in December, the advisory committee is now tasked with coming up with a more detailed and specific plan for how the money will be allocated once given to them.

"We felt that they had made their case so far in regards to the additional funding sort of as a springboard for additional funding for development, so the next step is to actually do a plan so that we can make sure we have a well-articulated vision." Cole added.

The committee feels it will have no issue finding a number of projects to immediately fund, and they have an emphasis on finding projects in underutilized areas around Iowa City outside of just the downtown area.

Rose Smith feels the return of investment will be seen quickly.

"I've had the deepest moments of connection with other people when we share the experience of looking at something at the same time, observing closely that thing at the same time, notice our observations when they differ or are the same." Rose Smith said. "That is one of the crucial parts of building community."

The committee will take the next few months to draw up a more established proposal that they hope to show to city council in March or April.