A plan to include a “Plan for Public Art” in the city’s comprehensive plan for development is on its way to the Shelbyville Common Council.
Following a lengthy discussion, the Shelbyville Plan Commission has voted unanimously 9-0 to send the matter to the City Council for consideration and a final vote.
The centerpiece of the public art plan calls for installing a sculpture by the Porter Center, 501 N. Harrison St. – the “gateway” into the city – at an estimated cost of $150,000 to be paid for with public and private funding.
City Council members in December voted 6-1 to provide $50,000 in public money for the project. Councilman Brad Ridgeway (R - 4th Ward) voted against the funding.
Other elements of the plan call for artworks along the city’s riverway bike-pedestrian trail and a Japanese garden planned this year for the site of the former Major Hospital on West Washington Street.
Amy Haacker, executive director of the Blue River Community Foundation, was the petitioner for the proposal before the Shelbyville Plan Commission and cited the collaborative nature of the art plan prepared jointly with the BRCF, the city and the Shelby Arts Alliance.
“We can get more done together than we can independently,” she told the commission Monday evening.
Commission member Doug Cassidy asked why they couldn’t use the statue of Balser, a character from the “Bears of Blue River” novel set in early Shelby County, which is now located on the Public Square.
Haacker replied it’s not big enough – the proposed sculpture will be 35 to 40 feet tall, she said.
The BRCF has solicited ideas from artists around the U.S. and outside, Haacker said, and at 6 p.m. Feb. 22, scale models of the proposed sculptures will be unveiled at a reception open to the public in City Hall, 44 W. Washington St.
Six artists have submitted ideas, though there may be more than six models if artists prepare more than one, she said after the meeting. The winner is expected to be announced March 15.
Commission member Gary Nolley asked who will be in charge of deciding what’s appropriate for the sculpture.
A selection committee will make the final choice, Haacker said, acknowledging, “I hadn’t really thought that far ahead.”
The written Plan for Public Art, dated October 2017, states that the selection committee includes the BRCF, Shelbyville Mayor Tom DeBaun, and representatives from the city’s planning and parks departments, the Shelby Arts Alliance, Shelby County Tourism, Mainstreet Shelbyville, nearby business owner(s), and an arts professional for technical assistance.
Commission member Joe Lux asked about maintenance of the sculpture and protections against vandalism.
Those are among the things to be considered when scoring the submissions, Haacker replied.
One citizen spoke during the Plan Commission meeting. Perry Tepka said he hoped to see some local artists involved.
“None of the artists sound like they’re Hoosiers which is disappointing,” he said, and he also questioned about vandalism and maintaining the sculpture.
Haacker noted that one of the sculpture submissions is from a local artist, and there would be other opportunities for local artists in the Plan for Public Art as well.
Terry James, president of the Shelbyville Plan Commission, asked Bryant Niehoff, director of the Plan Commission, to explain “place making,” a phrase used repeatedly about elements of the art plan.
Niehoff replied it’s a broad term in planning referring to an underused or neglected location, “to say, we’re going to reclaim that.”
No date has been set for the City Council to consider adding the art plan to the comprehensive plan. The council’s next scheduled meeting is Feb. 5.