During League City City Council’s May 25 meeting, representatives from Up Art Studios in Houston shared the results of a community survey and study related to implementing public art, such a murals and statues, in League City.
Overwhelmingly, residents supported the idea of installing art around the city, especially art that reflects League City’s future and identity, such as water recreation and birding.
Recommendations from the survey for how to implement art included the city creating a sustainable public art program and staffing it with dedicated funding so the city can invest in high-quality art from professional artists, Up Art Studios representatives said.
“Initially people get really excited about projects ... but you really need a program that requires staff ... and some operational funding,” one said. “It is quite a bit of work for your staff.”
Besides being nice to look at, art attracts people to a community, bringing in dollars, while bringing the city together, the representatives said.
“Attractive places attract people and dollars,” one said.
Sarah Greer Osborne, who is leading the public art initiative for the city, said the city in fiscal year 2021-22 plans to spend $150,000 on public art, including mini murals on utility boxes—one of which is already underway at League Park—along Main Street and elsewhere. Clear Creek ISD students will help create some of these murals, she said.
Other planned projects include a large mural at the intersection of I-45 and League City Parkway and on the water tower behind League Park, officials said. Additionally, at the end of May, the city will advertise a new full-time position that will help direct League City’s art program, Osborne said.
As for funding art, representatives said every major city with a robust public art program allocates a small percentage of each capital improvement project toward art.
Council Member Nick Long said that may not be appropriate. For instance, the city a couple years ago passed a $145 million bond for drainage and transportation projects, and even a small percentage of that would equal millions of dollars toward art that would not necessarily correlate with such projects, he said.
Additionally, the city is already behind on its capital projects spending goals due to projects costing more than originally projected, so taking some of that money for art does not feel right, said Long, who noted it may be more appropriate to use hotel tax funds for art.
Mayor Pat Hallisey said he likes the idea of public art and that the city is lucky it can fund it without using property tax revenue. The city could use 4B funds, usually set aside for sports facilities, or park dedication funds, Hallisey said.
“I think there’s enough revenue streams to keep us away from property taxes,” he said. “[But] to make a city art-friendly takes money.”
Council Member Andy Mann said a November 2022 bond referendum may be one funding solution.
“I’m stoked,” he said of the idea of art. “Completely stoked.”
Hallisey agreed, noting it is unusual for the city to present an idea no one disagrees with.
“Let’s get started,” he said.