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Madison may commission artists who have lost income in COVID-19 pandemic

Madison may commission artists who have lost income in COVID-19 pandemic

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Public art

"South Madison's Gateway" by sculptor Edgar Jerome Jeter sculptor was dedicated in 1987 on the 1400 block of S. Park St. The city may spend $80,000 to hire artists impacted economically by the COVID-19 pandemic to create public art.

As the COVID-19 pandemic rips through the local economy, there remains a place for art.

Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and City Council President Sheri Carter are proposing the city use up to $80,000 from the Municipal Art Fund for an initiative that would commission artists who have lost income due to the coronavirus crisis to create art in public places.

The pandemic has caused sudden and overwhelming losses of income for artists, the proposed resolution notes. But art is vital to a community’s sense of well-being, especially in a crisis, it says. Timely support could help prevent irreparable damage and enable artists to continue to produce their work and promote positivity in neighborhoods, it says.

Because city boards, commissions and committees — including the Madison Arts Commission — aren’t meeting on regular schedules during the pandemic, staff will temporarily change how the money is allocated, the resolution says.

Under the new rules, the city’s arts program administrator would issue a call for artists who have lost income during the crisis, and arts commission members will rank the applications. Then, staff will coordinate public art and placemaking projects under $10,000 to take place in the central city and on the North, South, East and West sides.

Proposals will be reviewed by the arts commission chair, at least one staff member from the Planning Division’s neighborhood planning, preservation and design team, and the arts program administrator. Proposals will be advanced to the Planning Division director for approval. Once the arts commission resumes regular meetings, it will resume the role of vetting applications and proposals.

“We need to make adjustments in so many areas during this pandemic, and this is a way that we can support local artists whose lives and incomes are totally changed,” Rhodes-Conway said.

A resolution will be introduced to the council on Tuesday and referred to committees, with a council decision at a later date.

The Planning Division’s 2020 budget includes $92,000 in funding for art grants, and the Municipal Art Fund capital program has about $427,000 in spending authority, meaning no additional money is needed for the initiative, according to the city Finance Department.

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