Mammoth Lakes Town Council held a study session with the Public Arts Commission prior to its regular meeting on Wednesday night. At the session, PAC presented its draft “Public Art Plan: Policies and Criteria,” which will be used to guide those wishing to install public art in the Town of Mammoth.
As with anything surrounding art, subjectivity came into play when Elizabeth Tenney came back to Council with her Gateway Monument project later in the evening, again requesting that the Town waive permit fees.
According to the draft Art Plan, the first design criteria for the identification, selection and acceptance of public art is that the art tells a story about the community and its surroundings.
However, during the study session discussion, Mayor Skip Harvey specifically pointed out that the PAC should not overlook art that is just fun. “It shouldn’t always have to tell a story,” he said.
When it came to Tenney’s Gateway Monument, one of the things the Council had asked her to do when she first came before it on March 16 was to take the project to the PAC to see if the Public Art Fund should cover the cost of the fees, as well as support the other in-kind requests Tenney was asking of staff time and grading operations. The PAC has used Public Art Funding to commission another entrance sign further down Hwy 203, near U.S. 395.
According to the April 6 staff report, PAC “came to consensus not to recommend funding portions of the [Gateway Monument] project through the Public Art Fund.”
The group’s rationale for this included its determination that the Gateway Monument is not “uniquely designed” as required in the context of the Municipal Code. Additionally, the group stated that it did not want to fund a similar project to the one it is commissioning just down the road.
At Wednesday’s Council meeting, PAC Chair Nick Holst added that the Gateway Monument “did not tell a story,” as PAC was suggesting be a requirement of public art in its Public Art Plan presented during the study session. He claimed the sign further down on Hwy 203 that PAC is funding will have a story that will relate to the mining history of Mammoth. The Gateway project does seem to conform to all of the other design criteria in the plan; again, however, the requirements are left open to subjectivity.
The monument sign, which may or may not include a sculpture someday, (the cost is too prohibitive at this time) will be made from granite and according to Tenney will give Mammoth a sense of place. Tenney showed slides of different national park signs across the country where people had stopped to take a picture in front of the sign. She believes the Gateway Monument project will inspire visitors to do the same in Mammoth. Inspiring people to stop and take a picture is part of the uniqueness requirement in the Public Art Plan.
The other design criteria in the plan are that the project should be located in a truly public place (Gateway Monument will be at the entrance to town in front of the public courthouse); long lasting, and made of highest quality.
When asked whether or not she thought it was odd that PAC was using Public Art Fund money for a sign just down the road from her Gateway Monument, Tenney said “I have no comment on that.” She did however point out that her project was not initially put forward as a piece of art, but as an entrance sign.
The Town Council followed the Commission’s advice and voted to use General Fund money rather than the Public Art Funds to support Tenney’s in-kind requests, approving the waiver of $2,807 in permit fees. According to Tenney, Mammoth Mountain is also providing significant support to the project, as are many others such as designer Larry Walker and architect Bruce Woodward.
“Rusty was flabbergasted with how great the mountain looks at that angle,” gushed Tenney, who is looking for volunteer support throughout the community. For information on how you can join in with contributions of help, expertise and funds, please contact Elizabeth Tenney at 760.709.6969 or firstname.lastname@example.org (Donations will be tax-deductible through the Mammoth Community Foundation.)
In other Council news …
The Mammoth Lakes Town Council approved the framework for the Sierra Valley Sites Neighborhood District Study with direction to staff to pay special attention to the area’s storm drainage issues and all mobility issues.
Council also approved a letter that will be sent to Mono County requesting the County follow its own consultant’s advice and completely deal with the inequitable amount that the Town is paying in solid waste fees versus the rest of the County. “The Town receives 40 percent of the service but pays 60 percent of the fees,” explained Town Manager Marianna Marysheva-Martinez. The County’s consultant stated that the County would need to add $500,000 to the budget each year to correct this inequity. The County is proposing to add $288,000. The letter encourages the Supervisors to bump up to the full $500,000 before they take a vote on the issue next week.