Carmel City Councilors split on need for public art commission

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Members of Carmel’s local government are split on the idea of creating a citizen commission that would consult with and advise Mayor Jim Brainard about where to place public art.

The proposed ordinance is in response to three large, colorful sculptures depicting youth sport erected in roundabouts along Hazel Dell Parkway.

“There was significant public comment about that artwork, and I think some of it was because it was a surprise,” city councilor Jeff Worrell said. “So, part of this is to give residents the opportunity to weigh in before they’re asked to buy in.”

Worrell is sponsoring the legislation, which would be non-binding and would not allow the commission to make decisions on purchasing art. Instead, the citizen commission would give input on the placement of art about 60 days prior to installation.

Brainard said the commission isn’t needed.

“It’s excess government,” he said.

Brainard said the way the ordinance is written, not a single piece of art could be displayed in City Hall without input from the proposed commission and possibly waiting 60 days.

City councilor Bruce Kimball said he’s not totally opposed to the idea. He said he weclomes public input but the proposed commission “really doesn’t have any meat to this.”

“I can’t think of anybody that wouldn’t be for letting citizens have more input,” he said. “It’s extremely important to include people in our districts, but I have some concerns that this is more of a feel good-type of ordinance. I think we need a lot of work on this. For one, we need to define the word ‘art.’”

Kimball said he’d like to work on the timing outlined in the ordinance, because 60 days could be too long to delay a project. Also, some art only works in certain locations because of size. He said there’s a lot to consider,and he’s open to discussing it.

Other sponsors of the ordinance include councilors Sue Finkam, Laura Campbell and Kevin “Woody” Rider.

“I got a lot of feedback on this art,” Finkam said. “I want to have this discussion, and I think it’ll be healthy.”

Rider said people fear what they don’t know.

“I think communication is good,” he said. “We’ll see where it goes.”

The ordinance was sent to committee.

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