Artful Arrangement: Winston-Salem and Forsyth County team up to bring more art to the area

Forsyth County Commissioners have taken the next to step to ensure that cities in the county have an opportunity to showcase art for all to see. At its January 11 meeting, commissioners unanimously voted to authorize a resolution that will create a joint City-County Public Art Commission under the City-County Public Art Plan. The motion was made by Commissioner Don Martin and seconded by Commissioner Walter Marshall.

Winston-Salem City Council approved its resolution in December 2015.

“This helps to set up the mechanism by which the public art master plan can be implemented,” said Paul Norby, Winston- Salem’s planning director.

He said that it’s important for communities in the Forsyth County to have access to public art.

“You want to have public art in your community because it helps to set the community apart, it gives it a unique character, it celebrates the creativity of artists within the community, and it’s an attraction for both visitors as well as residents,” said Norby. “There’s both cultural and economic reasons why you would want to promote public art within the community.”

Forsyth County Manager Dudley Watts agrees.

“I think the participating communities want to explore the possibilities in their communities and the County residents certainly benefit from how art enhances these public places,” Watts said about the importance of the commission. “This is really a start. There is much work to be done.”

The Commission would facilitate the creation of public art throughout Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, including the villages of Clemmons and Tobaccoville, and the towns of Kernersville, Lewisville and Rural Hall.

The Commission would be tasked with meeting both the city and county’s needs and interest in bringing art to the area. Responsibilities include actively encouraging the development of public art in the city and county by coordinating pubic art proposals, finding artists, funds and space. They are tasked with figuring out where public art will be an asset, proposing projects and deciding on a budget for those projects.

The Commission would have nine to 11 members, with six of those members being appointed by City Council. The rest of the seats would be filled by County Commissioners based of nominations made by surrounding towns and villages. At least six to eight members will be required to have a professional arts background. According to the interlocal agreement, that’s defined as someone “who has professional experience or training related to the arts origination from employment or study within the following disciplines: art or art history, arts administration, architecture, art criticism, art education, curation, conservation, heritage arts, literature, music, new media, performing arts, public art, visual arts or a related field.”

“The public arts commission itself would not be just a board that is reacting to things in front of them but it would be a working board that would be made up by people who have experience and expertise in creating art, fundraising and grant writing. They would actually be a hands-on commission that would be trying to actually make public art happen,” Norby said.

The Commission will also focus on finding outside funding opportunities which would mean at least one of the members would need to be experienced at grant writing. Funding will be provided by participating municipalities, any donations made for specific projects and grants. Municipal funding will be spent only on projects located in those particular cities and the amount set aside would be funds allocated for public art by that governmental agency.

“It really depends on who steps up and is willing to donate funds or whether there’s any of those public  bodies who decide to put in some public dollars,” Norby said. “Winston- Salem, three different times, has allocated $50,000 dollars per year. There were some funds spent on some public art that already exists. I think they have a balance of $110,000 that could be earmarked to public art within the city limits. That is at least some seed money to get started.”

Norby said that the commission won’t rely solely on public funding, commission members don’t get paid and existing city staff will do work that needs to be done.

“There are some funds to get started in the City of Winston Salem. As we get started and the momentum builds I would imagine there’s going to be people and companies who donate funds, people going and seeking grants, and there may well be one or more public entities that allocates more funding,” he said.

Watts said that he has heard positive feedback about the agreement from elected officials.

“While there are some concerns that the creation of the commission is the first step in public funding of art, most expect that private funds will be relied on exclusively for the artwork,” he said.

Local leaders also hope that the new group will partner with existing groups and organizations to build community support. Norby said he wouldn’t be surprised to see some familiar faces from these groups on the commission.

“Regardless of whether they’re on the commission or not, those groups would have to be tapped as resources to help generate public art. The commission just won’t be doing things by themselves,” he said. “They’re going to network with the greater art community to find artists, ideas for public art, to look for spaces to put public art and to promote public art. It fits hand in glove with the objectives of the greater art community that’s already in place.”

To apply for the position, applicants must live in Forsyth County. Residents should look for more information online on the city and county’s website about the application process. !