San Diego has over 500 works of art in its civic art collection but it isn’t all that easy for typical city residents to get to each of those pieces.
Roughly a dozen of the city-owned artworks are located at water plants or pump stations. Yet ever since Sept. 11, the public can’t get into most of those facilities – at least not very easily.
Security concerns caused officials to close most of San Diego’s water-related facilities to the general public. To see the art there now, folks have to contact the city’s communication department, pass certain security measures and set up an appointment.
“One time to see [Robert Millar’s] work at the Alvarado Water Treatment Plant, I hopped a fence and snuck a look at it,” said artist Robin Brailsford, who was commissioned by the city to add her own artwork, “Stream of Consciousness / Body of Water,” to the Miramar Water Treatment plant when it was upgraded and expanded a few years ago.
Not all of the work at public water facilities is closed off. An art installation by Marcos Ramires Erre and Teddy Cruz that covers a pump station in Point Loma can still be viewed by the public, for instance. But even those facilities are often located in strange, off-the-beaten-path places not frequented by many people.
San Diego’s public art ends up in these weird and not-so-public locations based on the way the city pays for new pieces.
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Seems like it would be easy enough to loosen up the restrictions on where the art must go. Or change percent for art requirements so that money could go into a public art fund. For an example from another city's Public Art funds: "A nine-member citizens’ committee, the Visual Arts Commission, oversees the City’s art acquisitions, donations AND PLACEMENTS."
Art that is just placed at the construction project site is often just used for the visual enhancement of that project. Nicer handrails, decorative gates or doors are two uses for the percent for art funds that I have seen in California. It seems like a commission that would approve the placements of the art would make a lot of sense.
If only the employees of a facility have easy access to the art, it is not PUBLIC ART! Either the rules should be changed to allow the art to be placed off-siteor,perhaps, the external structure, that faces the street, should show the art. For example, there is a water tower in Vienna that is a work of art in itself.