For Art's Sake 

Treasure Valley cities increase spending on public art

The sculpture looks like a huge metal dandelion, and seemed to spring up overnight at the corner of Eighth and Broad streets in BoDo. It's title is"Litharacnium," and it was designed by artists Margo and Dennis Proksa and architect Bruce Poe to resemble its titular single-celled aquatic protozoan—a reminder of biological diversity and the interdependence of life.

It cost $42,000, paid for by the city of Boise's Percent for Art program, the Capital City Development Corporation and Idaho Greenworks. That's a sizable investment and indicative of the sizable emphasis Boise puts on its public art—a growing fact of living in Boise, thanks to a network of public art programs designed to beautify the city.

In Idaho, many cities are beginning to invest in public art as a way of improving their citizens' quality of life. Meanwhile, funding for statewide organizations has stagnated, leading to a reduction in financial support for the arts and to communities adopting ways to make their own investments in public art.

From 2013 to mid-2014, programs and agencies like the Percent for Art program, run by the Boise City Department of Arts and History; the CCDC; Mayor's Neighborhood Reinvestment grants; and Parks and Recreation Department spent more than $500,000 on works embellishing the City of Trees.

That level of funding is unmatched anywhere else in the state, but in the Treasure Valley—home to the three largest cities in Idaho—a few municipalities are catching the public arts fever.

The Meridian Arts Commission drew $20,000 from the city's general fund and other resources from grants during fiscal year 2014. Nampa has budgeted $12,850 through community funding, grants and fees in 2014.

Funding for percent-for-art programs is on the rise as well. Seven cities across the state—Coeur d'Alene, Hailey, Ketchum, Rexburg, Twin Falls, Moscow and Boise—have established taxes of varying size on capital development projects to fund public artworks.

In Boise, the 1.4 percent tax has been in effect since 2001. At 5 percent, Ketchum's is the highest such tax in the state (it applies to qualifying CDPs valued at less than $1 million). Since its inception, Boise's Percent for Art program has enhanced Boise's public spaces with nearly $3.3 million worth of art.

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