The arts received a show of support from Merced leaders last week after local artists rallied to endorse more murals, painted utility boxes and other projects proponents say will beautify the city.
An open call for artists issued by the city late last year attracted 14 proposals, mostly from Merced-area residents. The proposed projects would turn city property like alleys, bridges, utility boxes and walls into art.
Merced staff last week recommended that the City Council approve six of the highest rated projects for a sum of $51,340. Scoring and recommendations were made by the Merced Arts and Culture Advisory Commission (ACAC) and a subcommittee to the Council for consideration in the upcoming 2022-23 city budget.
Several community artists attended last week’s City Council meeting to make the case for allocating more funds in the budgets so additional art projects can be approved.
“Investing in art will not only benefit the quality of life of citizens, but it becomes a driver of economic development,” said Patricia Pratt, a Merced artist and owner of Kreepy Kawaii Designs.
Pratt and other residents pointed out a discrepancy between the suggested arts allocation of $51,340 and the city’s graffiti abatement budget of about $200,000.
Several advocates urged the City Council to reallocate those funds to support artists, or requested that the budget for art projects should match that of graffiti abatement.
Although city leaders ultimately didn’t raise funding to the requested $200,000, the budget was about doubled to $100,000 after a majority of Council members voiced support for increasing the number of approved art projects.
“I like the proposals, I don’t think there was a bad one,” Councilmember Jesse Ornelas said.
Mayor Matt Serratto suggested the $100,000 budget approved by the Council.
Elected officials also voted to move forward with five of the six recommended projects, excluding one on account of it being submitted by an individual residing outside of the Merced region.
Although the boosted budget will pay for more projects, staff said it won’t quite cover the cost of all 14. The ACAC will craft a second list of recommended projects that will be presented to the City Council for consideration at a later date.
The five art projects approved by the City Council include:
A mural at McNamara Park Youth Center by Eddie Rodriguez, estimated $4,600 budget.
A wall mural of candid portraits by Glen Camarda, estimated $5,990 budget.
A mural at Applegate Zoo by Joel Aguilar, estimated $8,000 budget.
A mural at Applegate Skate Park by Patricia Pratt, estimated $29,000 budget.
Utility box beautification by Karen McComb, estimated $750 budget.
More information about the art projects can be found in last week’s City Council meeting documents.