The importance of art in the heart of the city

The artwork in the Municipal Services Building Plaza suffers from graffiti and disrepair. Credit: Charles Mostoller.
The artwork in the Municipal Services Building Plaza suffers from graffiti and disrepair. Credit: Charles Mostoller.

Once again, it comes back to the schools.

The motivation to inspect the city’s art collection stemmed from the school district’s attempt to sell its own art collection last year.

City Controller Alan Butkovitz said the school district thought its more than 1,000-piece collection was worth at least $30 million in the early 2000s, but then saw the value plummet in the post-recession era. Latest estimates put the collection’s worth around $1 million.

“We were very concerned,” Butkovitz said.

The conversation moved from fear for the security over those pieces “into a generalized concern about how the city is maintaining the art IT owns,” Butkovitz said.

So his office released a performance audit a few weeks ago of the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, which oversees the city’s robust 1,000-piece collection, which includes sculptures, reliefs, mosaics, stained glass kinetic works, architectural adornments, paintings and murals.

Butkovitz claimed to find damaged, vandalized, uncategorized and missing pieces. The report also blasted the department for its lack of procedures for loaning, relocating, valuing and cataloging individual art pieces.

Margot Berg, public art director for the OACCE, said part of the report was inaccurate.

“We have a detailed inventory of all the works in the collection,” she said. “And we’ve undertaken the majority of the city’s most treasured artworks — some going back to the 1800s.”

She conceded the office is adopting the suggestions to create a manual of its processes. But she said it’s hard to get to it all.  At the school district, the art was to provide “a sense of aesthetics, a civilized tone to the building,” Butkovitz said. But with the city’s art, it’s all over the place.

“The city has left many of these pieces in place but they’re in places like recreation centers, they’re murals on walls, they’re hanging from the ceilings of recreation centers, and no special precautions are made to recognize that this is art and that it may have value and it needs to be protected in some way.”

School district officials were not immediately available for comment.

One percent for art’s sake

First established in 1959, the city’s Percent-for-Art Program requires 1 percent of all capital projects be spent on public art.

The plan was to enhance the city structure.

The art is not required to be reported in the city’s financial statements.

And if any pieces of the artwork are sold, the proceeds can only be used to acquire other pieces of art for the collections.

The Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy was created in 1986 to oversee the city’s art collection.

____________________

Follow Tommy Rowan on Twitter: @tommyrowan

Follow Metro Philadelphia on Twitter: @metrophilly

Follow Metro Philadelphia on Facebook: Metro Philadelphia



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Mayor announces public housing improvements

Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke at the Lincoln Houses in East Harlem on Wednesday, calling for the scaffolding to come down at NYCHA complexes across…

National

Peter Theo Curtis: American released by Syrian militants…

An American writer freed this week from two years in the captivity of insurgents in Syria spoke briefly outside his family's Cambridge home Wednesday of…

Local

Bratton defends 'broken windows' work as NYPD support…

Sixty percent of those polled said they support the "broken windows" theory approach popularized by Commissioner Bratton since his first term in the 1990s.

Local

Transit changes for Labor Day weekend

The MTA is adding additional service Friday for New Yorkers getting out of the city for the long weekend. On Friday, Aug. 29, 27 additional…

Going Out

Things to do this week in NYC, Aug.…

MUSIC The Electric Zoo Festival Aug. 29-31, 1 p.m. Randall’s Island Park $99-$369, www.electriczoofestival.com The electronic music celebration returns for a fifth year, with 150,000 attendees…

Going Out

5 things to do this weekend in NYC

The Electric Zoo Festival Aug. 29-31, 1 p.m. Randall’s Island Park $99-$369, www.electriczoofestival.com The electronic music celebration returns for a fifth year, with 150,000 attendees expected. David Guetta,…

Television

'Full House' might be relaunched with some of…

A new "Full House" might be in the works.

Movies

Review: 'The Congress' is a crazy, unwieldy sci-fi…

Robin Wright is the center of gravity in "The Congress," which turns from a live-action Hollywood satire into an animated spectacular on a downer future.

NFL

Mario Manningham on the bubble as Giants play…

Former Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham hopes his second go-around with Big Blue doesn’t end with Saturday’s final cut day.

NFL

Source: Stephen Hill 'faces a battle' to make…

A team source says Stephen Hill, who has battled injuries and poor performances during his first two years, is no lock to make the Jets’ final roster.

Sports

Serena Williams leaving legacy of talented American women…

It seems only a matter of when, not if, Serena Williams will win her 18th career grand slam championship.

College

When are 2014 college football playoffs? (Schedule, date,…

When and where are 2014 college football playoffs? A look at the schedule, date, TV, time for the semi-finals at championship game.

Wellbeing

Heart trumps brain when it comes to movies…

When you need a good cry, do you reach for the movie that’s “based on a true story”? Science says you’re giving your brain far…

Sex

The 10 types of people you meet online

Does it ever seem like online dating profiles tend to get a little repetitive? It turns out you are not the only one to have…

Home

Labor Day essentials

Whether you’re soaking up the sun on the beach or barbecuing in the park here are some must-haves for your end-of-summer bash.

Education

Does the school day start too early?

As thousands of high schoolers get ready to head back to class, health experts say it may be time to push back the start of…