EMBRACING OUR “CITY OF THE ARTS” James Sheppard’s Public Art Platform

Rochester is a City of the Arts:  From the Eastman Museum, Garth Fagan Dance, Eastman School of Music, Memorial Art Gallery, RPO, Geva, Rochester City Ballet, Rochester Lyric Opera to the countless organizations that celebrate local and regional talent, there are so many individual artists, right here, right now, contributing to the culture that is critical to our quality of life.  

But recent discussions regarding the development of Parcel 5 highlight the issue of whether the City has lived up to a decade-old commitment to publicly fund the arts. It also reminds us that we should expect more from private investors to include public art in their projects.

The City of Rochester has a Percent for Art policy.  It has been on the books since 2007, and requires that capital funds be allocated annually for public art installations. The law also stipulates that the administration develop and implement a process for the equitable distribution of funds for arts and cultural programs.   

The Sheppard Administration will adopt and fully fund the Percent for Art policy.

Public Art Installations

Every year, 1% of City capital funding will be set aside for public art – sculpture or other architectural enhancement. The goals of the Public Art program are:

  • To promote awareness of, and opportunities for, the development of Public Art.  

  • To create high quality public spaces through the integration of art, urban design and architecture.

  • To incorporate art into the public arena to contribute to the unique identity of the City of Rochester and to enhance the City as a location for diversified economic development.

  • To encourage the involvement of artists in the design and development of public spaces and streets by facilitating collaboration among artists, planners, architects, landscape architects, urban designers, and neighborhood groups whenever possible in the total design process.

  • To ensure that the selection of all Public Art is subject to a clear and equitable review process.

It is well-established that public art is a vital component to thriving, growing cities, and is essential for both economic development and quality of life.  The Liberty Pole and the Albert Paley Main Street Bridge enhancements are two prime examples of how our downtown life is enriched by public art.  We will create more of these opportunities throughout our city.

Arts and Cultural Programs

The City annually invests a significant amount of money and in-kind services to support a number of cultural events and institutions – for very good reason. Whether large (e.g., Jazz Fest, MusicFest) or small (e.g., RPO on the Town, Clarissa Street Reunion), these programs and events contribute to our vibrant city. But, these funding decisions are made without process. We must be able to communicate to the public why we support one and not the other.   

As called for in the Public Art ordinance, the Sheppard Administration will establish and implement a process that clearly lays out how program funds will be distributed. I am committed to implementing this policy to ensure that tax dollars are being spent appropriately and fairly without favoritism for events and organizations that matter to us all.

Public Art Committee (PAC) and Master Plan

I recognize that neither I nor most City staff members are experts in public art. We will engage City residents, artists, arts patrons, neighborhood groups, building and landscape architects, and urban planners to guide our Public Art planning, including the development of a Public Arts Master Plan. Successful integration of Public Art into City culture will result from the engagement of these interested parties at the earliest possible stages.

Under my administration, Rochester will truly reflect the value we have for our arts communities by resurrecting and fully supporting the Percent for Art policy, making a real commitment and celebrating our well-deserved reputation as City of the Arts.

Sheppard is looking forward to hearing the input from Rochester's arts community on the Parcel 5/Performing Arts Center proposal at the City Council's Arts and Cultural Committee meeting, which takes place today, Thursday, at 4PM in Council Chambers.