Public Arts Committee in organization stage

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Thanks to the efforts of a local group of residents and artists, Glendive’s downtown master plan might have an addendum in store that would help connect artists with the city in order to better promote the public arts.

During the June 13 FUPR committee meeting, Dawson County Arts Unlimited’s Sandy Silha, along with local artist Pamela Harr, presented to the committee a proposal for the creation and inclusion of a Public Arts Committee that would serve as an intermediary for artists or groups looking to add to Glendive’s public aesthetic.

Born out of Harr’s own project that is attempting to add four bronze sculptures to the Towne Street bridge, the proposed committee, according to Silha, would seek to address questions that were raised during Harr’s project proposal to the city council, and to streamline the process of bringing public arts proposals to the city council.

“[Harr] found out that there was no policy for public art, and she also found that public art had been left out of the downtown master plan, and so she approached the gallery about maybe coming under an umbrella of DCAU, so that there would be a formal group to support public art in the community of Glendive,” Silha said. “What we want to do is support the arts and artists, so we decided to form a committee that could be a liaison with the city and help them adopt a policy.”

Both Harr and Silha also credited resident Peggy Iba with doing much of the footwork for researching public arts committees in other towns and cities and for helping pave the way for others to take up the mantle of the cause.

During the June 13 FUPR meeting, Mayor Jerry Jimison entertained the idea that the city already had a readilyavailable guideline that the proposal could fall under, and recommended, along with the FUPR committee, that Silha and Harr return to the city with a more fleshed-out proposal of the Public Arts committee.

“The city has already adopted the downtown master plan as a guidelines,” Jimison said. “What they’re proposing I think could be added to the master plan as an addendum or appendix.”

Since then, the Public Arts Committee has taken its baby steps toward becoming a fullfledged organization. Working hand in hand with DCAU in order to have the backing of a non-profit organization, as well as the support of an already established group in the community, Silha been putting finishing touches on a final draft of the proposal that she hopes to present to the city sometime in September.

While Silha said the committee will likely have a DCAU member as the chairman, it is not the intention of herself, nor the other preliminary committee members to have the group run solely by DCAU.

Instead, a recent meeting of the arts committee on July 31 served as a cross section of Glendive’s populace, with Silha and Harr meeting with other community members: artist Jaime Shanks with Glendive Medical Center, resident Sharon Dahl and Ranger-Review publisher Chad Knudson.

During the meeting, Silha sought feedback from the members of the rough draft that had been previously proposed to the city, as well as changes in mind for the final draft proposal. Additionally, the committee reviewed guidelines and processes used by larger communities such as Modesto, California that already have public arts committees in place.

Under the rough draft, the public arts committee would serve as the first stop for anyone looking to add a public arts project to the streets of Glendive. Presently, as Harr discovered during her bridge proposal, artists must go through an approval process that includes but is not limited to the city committee, full council, Public Works department and possibly the state Department of Transportation, depending on whether or not the project is located on state property.

The arts committee would seek to serve as a one-stop shop for all of the groups, establishing a guideline and how-to for artists so that they can understand and follow city, county and state laws without concern. Additionally, Silha said that the arts committee would help relieve some of the burden placed on the city by vetting proposals before they make their way to full city council.

During the June 13 meeting, councilman Gerald Reichert backed the idea of less weight put on the council’s shoulders during public arts proposals, joking to Silha and Harr that, “you know better than we do, certainly no one wants to see the art that we make.”

Thus far, the public arts committee is still constructing itself and its mission statement, with the early group of five committee members potentially expanding to as many as nine, and with portions of the draft being amended to best meet the needs of the city and public.

Ultimately, Silha sees the committee as serving not only arts and aesthetic interests in the city, but the rejuvenated spirit of community that she feels is on the up with Glendive residents.

“There’s a lot of movement in Glendive toward moving forward, there’s a lot of people that are getting active in getting this community rolling and showing it off,” Silha said. “I just hope that we can help push that drive forward.”

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