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Houston taxpayers get soaked?

When Houston’s Water Museum and Education Center opens in the Fall of 2009, visitors will be greeted with one splashy Texas-worthy monument to mandatory public arts funding.

This $500,000 “bathtub bouquet” (conceptual drawing shown here) will be installed at the outer traffic circle of the new WaterWorks facility and is designed with a hidden water recycling system (thank God for that). Not that it has to “represent” or “mean” anything, but I wonder what the artsy “talking points” will be about the work’s message… there’s plenty of water here, fill ‘er up and splash ‘er out! Whatever, I admit it…I really like it, there’s something irresistable about it.

 As reported on www.chron.com, the Houston Chronicle’s online site, 

Its title, Tubbs, is a pun and tribute to country-music legend Ernest Tubb. Its creator, Philadelphia-based Donald Lipski, is an art-world legend, with work in more than two dozen major museums and a hefty portfolio of public art commissions.

Funded by an ordinance that sets aside 1.75 percent of city capital-improvement project budgets for art, Tubbs is one of eight public commissions set for completion in 2009, say officials with the nonprofit agency charged with managing the city’s art collection.

“We want to have the country’s next great civic art program,” said Jonathon Glus, CEO of the Houston Arts Alliance. “Houston is poised for it.”

Lipski landed the Public Works and Engineering Department commission by answering an HAA open call for artists in June 2007. A five-member panel of department representatives, art professionals and stakeholders met twice — first to review submissions and select three finalists, then to interview the finalists, review their designs and select the artist.

Although the commission was originally budgeted for $350,000, public-works officials agreed to add $150,000 after “reviewing the scale and potential of the Water Museum commission.” That enabled HAA to negotiate a $500,000 contract with Lipski in June, according to HAA’s civic art capital report for fiscal 2008.