"Just as the County invests funds to maintain buildings, artworks require resources for maintenance as well as conservation."

Public Arts Trust consultant, Michele Cohen, and AHCMC CEO Suzan Jenkins testifying to Montgomery County Council
Public Arts Trust consultant, Michele Cohen, and AHCMC CEO Suzan Jenkins testifying to Montgomery County Council
Last Thursday, February 9, we testified to Montgomery County Council to encourage them to  protect their $4+ million investment and fund conservation and maintenance for County-owned public art. Below is one of the written testimonies submitted to Montgomery County Council:

Council President Berliner, esteemed members of the County Council, thank you for your past support of the arts and humanities in Montgomery County. I am here today to ask you to appropriate funding for the Public Arts Trust (PAT) in FY13/FY14.

The Arts and Humanities Council (AHCMC) was distressed to learn that appropriation was not included in the FY13/FY14 Public Arts Trust CIP #729658 as this funding is critical to protect and maintain the County’s assets of over $4M already invested in public art. A Cost Change for FY13 and 14 is noted in CIP#729658 to allocate a TBD amount to AHCMC’s operating budget for maintenance of assets currently in the Trust.

I ask you now to allocate an appropriate level of funding in the CIP that will allow AHCMC to manage the Trust responsibly. Even funding 50% of the former allocation would be hugely impactful.

As you may recall, funding for the PAT CIP was severely reduced in FY10 and eliminated in FY11 and FY12. As a result, AHCMC eliminated staff hired to manage the Trust, putting the County’s $4M public art assets at risk, and in some cases, potentially putting the public at risk. Many of these public artworks are deteriorating; many of them are in public parks and over half of them are in public schools. What message does this send to our community?

While $9,000 for maintenance has been appropriated for the PAT in the AHCMC general operating budget, $9,000 is insufficient to maintain the 868 works of art in the Public Art Collection (568 works on paper, 300 sculpture/murals) by nationally known and significant local artists. These are public assets paid for by taxpayer dollars. The PAT should be funded to protect those assets.

Artwork is ALL OVER the county, in schools, parks, plazas, libraries, office buildings: the EOB, the COB, the Judicial Center, Health and Human Services. The people of our County interact with it every day and it is improving and inspiring the community every day.

Over the last year, AHCMC developed a database to manage all aspects of the collection, including curatorial information, current condition and ownership responsibilities. However we have no ongoing staff to manage the collection, database or conservation efforts.

Considering the initial $4M investment made with taxpayer dollars into the collection, AHCMC now needs funds to manage and conserve the County’s collection. As the old adage goes, “An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure.” Just as we expect developers to maintain public art on private property, we must set an example. Deteriorating artworks in schools and community centers sends a negative message to County residents, developers and businesses.

As of the 2003 PAT Maintenance Report, 41 pieces were listed in the “worst” condition; we estimate that real number is now close to 50, or 15% of the collection of public art. A significant percentage of the collection is in schools and other public spaces. The County must act ASAP to protect the collection so that pieces in schools and those like that of major artist, Brower Hatcher, won’t have to be removed as it was several years ago because it was so severely damaged.

Conservation for a public agency or arts non-profit requires a team effort of knowledgeable administrators, conservators, and the cooperation of the County. And while AHCMC has the momentum to manage the County’s public art collection responsibly, we need funds for the conservation and maintenance of the PAT.

The attached photos of the Julio Teichberg installation at the Germantown Community Center demonstrates the grave need for funds to conserve and maintain taxpayers’ investment and the County’s assets. Of even greater concern, is danger to public safety. Please let me share a little of that once-wonderful piece of art with you now.

Pieces from an installation at the Germantown Community Center

Just as the County invests funds to maintain buildings, artworks require resources – both human and fiscal – for maintenance as well as conservation.

Councilmembers, I implore you to budget at least $74,000 for the Public Art Trust which would include $30,000 for staffing and $44,000 for conservation and the implementation of a maintenance program. Such a budget allocation will allow the Arts and Humanities Council to maintain and manage the collection and conserve the County’s assets in this most valuable public trust. Thank you for the opportunity to present this information to you tonight.

Respectfully submitted,
Suzan Jenkins
Arts and Humanities Council, Montgomery County