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Discussion of Public Art Funding Turns Heated
Discussion of Public Art Funding Turns Heated

Tensions were high in the Springfield City Council chambers as an hour-long debate about public money for murals on downtown buildings turned ugly and, at times, personal.

Ward 6 Alderman Cory Jobe’s ordinance would give Downtown Springfield, Incorporated 50-thousand TIF dollars for its Artification project. Ward 1 Alderman Frank Edwards wasn’t sure whether TIF funds were eligible… Jobe claimed Edwards was trying to throw the project off the rails.

“For somebody to suggest we’re throwing wrenches, contraire,” said Edwards. “We’re doing our homework trying to figure out whether we can do it legally or not do it legally. Because we were told, in an art project, that we couldn’t do this.”

Edwards was referring to an attempt to use TIF money to purchase a sculpture from local artist Mike Dunbar several years ago. The city’s corporation counsel at the time, Jennifer Johnson, said no art could be purchased with TIF funds.

There was also discussion amongst aldermen as to whether this would constitute purchasing art, as DSI seeks to create art, not purchase it.

It’s unclear how the council will move forward, but it’s possible money could come from the city’s facade improvement program, which would give the city more control over future changes to the artwork.

Artification seeks to turn several downtown building walls into public murals. One is already underway on the Alamo building at 5th and Jefferson and, according to its artist, is ahead of schedule.