Longform

THE TWO FACES OF ARTBETWEEN THE GODDARD AND JOHNSON ADMINISTRATIONS, PHOENIX'S PUBLIC ART PROGRAM WAS KNOCKED OFF ITS PEDESTAL

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Or will the public-art division retool and begin again, as the economy improves, to throw artists and engineers together at drawing boards, in the collective endeavor of building a great city? "Everybody I talk to loves the idea of getting the artist on the design team upfront," says Marsha Wallace of the City Manager's Office. "And that seems to be a win-win, as opposed to you have a building built and then you add something.

"That's been our huge success. That's what we're known for all over the country."
Citing the canal project and a couple of streetscape jobs, arts commissioner Bill Hardin points out that most of this year's art plan is devoted to infrastructure works. But, he notes, future infrastructure work is "only really doable effectively if you've got a staff that's committed to it and knows what they're doing."

Late last week, the latest five-year "wish list" of capital-improvement ideas from various departments around the city made its way to the arts commission.

In the old days, the arrival of the document and the arts commission's staff's first look into the city's future "was an enormously exciting process," says Whitehurst, "the central creative process of the entire program.

"It was almost like looking into a crystal ball."
Whitehurst has yet to be replaced. The selection process for the position continues, with a goal of hiring a new director this spring.

The Phoenix Arts Commission has accomplished much more than even its foresighted creators envisioned.

An ambitious arts-in-the-schools program has given some 90,000 schoolkids direct exposure to professional artists. A program was launched to encourage businesses to spend on the arts. The commission's grants program has provided cash and marketing help to hundreds of arts groups of all sizes. Dedicated and hardworking staffers remain in place in those sections of the arts commission. But the public-arts staff is now gazing into the future of other locales.

Almost fortuitously, recurring natural disasters around the country (hurricanes, river floods, earthquakes, etc.) have provided for lots of infrastructure-rebuilding opportunities. The departed arts commission staffers who made their reputation on a garbage-transfer building, under a freeway overpass--and, yes, while tossing some oversize pots--are in great demand as consultants and guest speakers around the country.

"I'm disappointed and saddened that something really good has been deflated," says Terry Goddard. "But we've done a blueprint. We've written the plan. And it's a plan that worked.

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Dave Walker