Council Wavers on Public Art Recommendation, Asks to See Alternatives

In no position to judge art, Councilmembers said, but worried about public safety and want to see other artists’ concept submissions

Published : Tuesday, March 27, 2018 | 5:16 AM

Pasadena City Council balked Monday at signing off on artist Alice Aycock's Glenarm Power Plant art concept recommendation by the City's Municipal Services Committee and Arts and Culture Commission.

Pasadena City Council balked Monday at signing off on artist Alice Aycock's Glenarm Power Plant art concept recommendation by the City's Municipal Services Committee and Arts and Culture Commission.

With some Pasadena City Councilmembers saying they were firm believers in “the process” and others that they were “in no position to judge art,” the Council asked Monday night for an additional report on a Municipal Services Committee recommendation to approve a new $740,00 public art project, selected after more than a year of Arts and Culture Commission meetings and discussions.

The project, a 40-foot high, 70-foot wide lit metal sculpture by artist/sculptor Alice Aycock, would sit at the City’s southern entrance at the Glenarm Power Plant, at the end of the Arroyo Seco Parkway, on the parcel bounded by Glenarm Street to the north, the 110 freeway to the east, Fair Oaks Avenue to the west, and State Street to the south.

According to the Committee’s staff report presented by Rochelle Branch, manager of the Cultural Affairs Division of the Pasadena Planning and Development Department, the Glenarm Capital Public Art Project was developed in accordance with the Capital Improvement Program’s Public Art Guidelines, which emphasize public inclusion and participation.

A stakeholder group, which represented several community constituencies, including arts, education, business and local residents, created the project’s vision statement, which outlined the objective for the public art project to be “an iconic and innovative gateway for the City,” according to the City staff report.

Said the report, “The project was envisioned to be experiential, dynamic and inspirational to make a strong visual about the City’s role as a leader in art, science and technology.”

A selection panel, composed of members of the Stakeholder Group as well as local public art professionals and a representative from the Water and Power Department, narrowed the qualified pool to 18 applicants in 2017. Each were reviewed and scored per the RFQ criteria to produce a list of four finalists.

Each finalist artist/team were commissioned to develop conceptual design proposals. Two artists/teams were subsequently selected, and the Selection Panel’s final recommendation was artist Alice Aycock’s proposal.

As the staff report noted, the RFQ was widely distributed and circulated by the Cultural Affairs Division through the City Manager’s Newsletter, email lists and cultural partners, as well the Public Art Master Plan consultant, the Public Art Network of Southern California, the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, and the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs. Additional notices were distributed to the MTA and other local arts agencies. The RFQ was posed on the Cultural Affairs website, Planet Bids and on the online CallforEntry.Org (CaFE) website.

A community meeting was also held at Art Center’s South Campus on February 23, 2017 to review the RFQ.

At the January 10, 2018 meeting, the Arts Commission recommended that the City Council approve the recommended proposed public art concept and artist Aycock for the contract award.

The Glenarm public art project is funded from two Water and Power capital projects. The total project budget was established at $868,935, which includes an allotment for future conservation funds. Per the Capital Public Art Program Guidelines, the Public.Works department would be responsible for light maintenance.

The City establishes a 1% set-aside public art fund for all such projects.

The recommended contract award amount of $740,000 will include the development of a Final Art Plan for the Arts Commission’s approval, schematic and working documents, a community meeting for input and feedback, oversight of fabrication and installation, and includes a 10% contingency amount.

“Everyone has their own opinion of art,” said Councilmember Tyron Hampton, but then he added, “You can’t see (the project) unless you’re in a car.”

Hampton also voiced concerns about maintenance, but was informed by Branch that the sculpture would “only need to be power washed” and that Public Works has such a system already in place at the site.

Hampton was also reassured by Branch that costs as well as possible overruns have been already included in the approved budget.

“It’s a possibility, but that is not anticipated,” said Branch.

Councilmember Madison worried that drivers would be distracted. Branch told the Council that the sculpture is lit with LED lights and there is no distracting motion or light pollution produced.

“Distraction is up to the driver,” pointed out Councilmember Margaret McAustin, chair of the Municipal Services Committee. “The art is not designed to be a distraction.”

Added McAustin, “This would be the most significant piece of public art in the history of our city. We followed the process very well.”

Erika Foy, president of the Madison Heights Neighborhood Association, asked the council, “How will history judge this?,” and called the project “a $1 million Band-Aid.”

“It’s crazy to protest public art,” she said, but added, “Is this a story of people working together, or is it just stakeholders?”

According to the City’s staff report, the Glenarm Power Plant Public Art Project was designated as a “high priority Capital Public Art Program project” in the Public Art Master Plan.

The Capital Public Art Guidelines requires eligible capital projects to designate one percent of construction costs to.the Capital Public Art Fund. Two Department of Water and Power capital projects at the power plant site generated the funds for this public art project.

Upon approval by City Council, the selected artist will be contracted to develop a Final Art Plan to include further conceptual design, schematic and final design, working documents, oversight of fabrication and installation.

Mayor Terry Tornek concluded, “This has been a diligent, exhaustive and exhausting process, which was designed to eliminate the Council from making this decision. I trust the Transportation Department and Water and Power people. This won’t be Times Square or the Ginza in Tokyo. And frankly, I like it.”

Tornek added, “(Aycock) is a world-class artist. She will make something that we will be proud of. This will make a dramatic change for the better. I am very supportive of this.”

Following a failed vote to approve the Committee recommendation to approve the project, the Council eventually asked the Planning Department to return with a supplemental report that looks at public safety issues, and includes the other artists’ entries.

Also see:
City to Name Four Finalists for Glenarm Power Plant Public Art Project

Designing Pasadena’s Gateway: Finalist Artists Unveil Visions for Glenarm Power Plant Public Art Project