Sometimes investing for the long-term can be hard to do when there are short-term needs that seem more urgent. (There’s a reason some piggy bank designs require smashing the thing open to get at the money there.) Sometimes investing in quality of life can be hard when it seems superfluous to more essential parts of a city’s survival.
But some hard things are worth doing. Even if we have to force ourselves in the way we build our piggy bank.
In Oregon, there’s a Percent-for-art program – made real through legislation – that sets aside “no less than 1% of funds for the acquisition of public-facing artwork in all state building construction plans with budgets over $100,000.”
In other words, if we can afford to build buildings and roads with taxpayer dollars, we can afford to invest in public art with a proportion of the same.
Does art hold offices or get people to their jobs safely? No. But it can inspire, educate, and benefit us just the same. And communities that have shown an investment in their quality of life sometimes see a ripple effect where other kinds of investments grow as a result.
If we could craft some percent-for-something rules for Richmond, what would they look like?
If you build a new shopping area or a new neighborhood development, you have to build sidewalks there too?
If you receive taxpayer-funded incentives for job retention/growth, you have to donate a certain amount of time from your employees for community volunteering?
If you rent out more than a certain number of properties in a neighborhood, you have to contribute funding to that neighborhood’s annual picnic?
Some people will call it unfair or anti-capitalist to even suggest such things. But there’s a lot of room for creativity here. And if we only talk about what we don’t want, we’ll never get around to experimenting with new things that might give us what we do want.
What would your percent-for-something program in Richmond look like?
I remember visiting Columbus, IN, where a foundation or corporation paid for top-quality architects for all of the new churches (and public buildings?) in the city. It really impacted the appearance of Columbus, and the results have lasted for decades.
I knew Philadelphia had this kind of program, I didn’t realize they started it in 1959! http://www.phila.gov/pra/percentForArt.html