As the readers of Diana Nelson Jones' Feb. 16 article "Petition Urges Including Art in Public Building Projects" know, Pittsburghers, Allegheny County residents and art lovers nationally are petitioning mayoral candidates to enforce the 1977 Pittsburgh ordinance mandating a 1 percent set-aside for public art. What most people don't know is that "Percent for Art" laws provide a particular type of funding for public art. It's unique funding that's independent from developers and arts foundations.
At a recent mayoral debate, city Councilman Bill Peduto said that every public development should include public art. Former Auditor General Jack Wagner said that shrubs could be public art. State Rep. Jake Wheatley discussed a community-based public art project in which he participated. At the same debate, the candidates promised to enforce Pittsburgh laws on clean air/clean water construction that developers don't like, citing lack of implementation from the Ravenstahl administration.
Not one of these candidates has the same temerity in standing up to developers regarding non-enforcement regarding public art. Some candidates have declared themselves supporters of public art, but none has made a campaign pledge to enforce and fully implement a law that has languished since 1977.
For a guide to implementation, just look at viable models in many of our nation's cities including New York, Chicago, Phoenix, Seattle. Philadelphia's program has been active since 1958. If we really want Pittsburgh to be a livable city that is one of the most inviting to young people, this is an obvious opportunity for any candidate for mayor.
The letter writer is an independent artist and activist.