By Luke Phillips
The future of public art in Paso Robles is looking brighter after City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to move toward restarting the City’s public art program, beginning to fund public art projects for the first time since before the Great Recession and streamlining the city’s mural application process.City Development Director Warren Frace told the City Council that the general public in Paso seems to understand the importance of public art and how murals can serve as tourists’ attractions as they have in cities such as Portland and Denver where the process of applying for a mural has been made as easy and efficient as possible.“I think with social media, people wanting to take selfies in front of interesting things, murals are perfect for that,” Frace said.
Currently, murals in the City have to be approved by three different governing bodies- Paso Robles Main Street, the City’s Development Review Committee and the Planning Commission. Frace said that the lengthy and stringent process has produce very few murals in the City and suggested that Paso’s new, streamlined process could be modeled after Portland, which hosts neighborhood meetings to gather input before each mural is painted.
The concept was tested in Paso Robles recently as part of a project to install a mural on the Shoemaker Building at 1500 Spring Street, commissioned by Studios on the Park. Community members were able to provide and seemed happy with the results, Frace said. “I do think the neighborhood meeting and making sure the public knows about it is the key to this process,” Frace said.
The Council directed City staff to work with the Paso Robles Main Street Association to develop a new streamlined application process for murals. Studios on the Park Executive Director Sasha Irving spoke at the meeting telling the council that she’s been working on a mural program since 2009 but the City’s current review process has made it “difficult to end up with product that we’re proud of,” Irving said. Irving agreed that the community meeting held prior to the mural being painted was beneficial. “It was great to engage with the community members and get their feedback on the piece we were creating,” Irving said. “We have so many wonderful perspective and I hope this piece is the first of many.”Travel Paso Executive Director Dana Stroud said that new public art would be an asset from a tourism perspective. “We wanted to voice out strong support for a mural program that integrates the history and heritage of Paso Robles through the artistic representation,” Stroud said, adding that Travel Paso would also like to see the City’s brand be integrated into mural designs.
The Council also voted to approve the reinstatement of funding for the public art program, dedicating one percent of each Capital Improvement Project toward the Public Art Fund. The City’s public art program uses those funds for the “acquisition, commission, design, installation, improvement, maintenance, and insurance of public art as well as a funding mechanism for these functions,” according to a City staff report on the item. The public art fund currently contains less than $600, according to Frace.