Left to right: San Marcos Arts Commission members Diann McCabe, Eva Doty, Noemi Govea, and San Marcos Recreation Manager Lisa Morris at a recent meeting of the San Marcos Arts Commission. Photo by Sean Batura.
By SEAN BATURA
San Marcos city officials may be in the midst of spending more money for permanent arts than ever before.
The San Marcos Arts Commission voted unanimously in June to ask city councilmembers for $100,000 out of the city’s permanent art fund to help finance a monument to Martin Luther King, Jr., and President Lyndon Baines Johnson. The city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board approved the proposal on July 20, though the city has not yet chosen a design or opened a call for projects. The city council has not acted on the matter.
However, the city council recently approved $115,000 in permanent art funding for a sculpture garden to be located between the San Marcos Activity Center and the San Marcos Public Library.
The sculpture garden will feature three permanent sculptures, already chosen, and temporary sculptures. The Arts Commission will periodically select new sculptures for temporary display. The project is scheduled for completion next month.
Plans for the monument to Johnson and King, known as the LBJ/MLK Crossroads Project, include the construction of a permanent feature on the southwest corner of LBJ Drive and MLK Drive. According to the city, the intersection may represent the only example in Texas of a point where two streets bearing the names of those two men meet.
Lisa Morris, the arts commission’s liaison with the city staff, said the city council established the permanent art fund by ordinance in 2004. The ordinance required 50 percent of hotel occupancy tax (HOT) arts funds to be set aside for permanent art. Morris said the other 50 percent is fully expended each year and is used for grants to projects and events such as Summer in the Park, La Feria del Mariachi, community art exhibits at the Walkers Gallery, Opening Door Dance Theatre, Earth Day Powwow, and the Heart of Texas Chorus regional competitions.
Morris said there are no projects competing with the LBJ/MLK Crossroads Project for permanent art funding.
“Since the (arts) commission was created in late 1998, the commissioners have been saving for permanent art projects,” said Morris, recreation manager in the city’s community services department. “Combining those savings with the funds created by the ordinance, the commission has been able to recommend funding for two major projects, the sculpture garden and the LBJ/MLK crossroads project.”
If the city council funds the LBJ/MLK crossroads project before Oct. 1 — the end of the fiscal year (FY) 2010 budget — there will be $19,000 left in the permanent art fund. The city council proposed a FY 2011 budget calling for the same funding level as this year’s budget — $30,600 for permanent art, $30,600 for miscellaneous arts-related projects and events, and $8,670 in city general fund dollars to support events that have a lesser affect on hotel occupancy. The city funds arts projects with HOT money generated by visitors to the city.
Arts funding constitutes the third lowest HOT funding request out of the seven items proposed in the proposed FY 2011 budget. State law does not dictate the percentage HOT funds to be used for arts projects. FY 2011 budget includes the following requests for HOT funding:
• Convention and Visitor’s Bureau – $767,700
• Prime Outlet Mall – $307,000
• Tanger Outlet Mall – $305,000
• Main Street – $217,273
• Arts – $61,200 (not including $8,670 requested from the general fund)
• Tourist Account – $11,333
• Transportation – $25,000
Total HOT funding requested: $1,694,506
An early concept design for the LBJ/MLK monument by landscape architect Marty Stump calls for the entire LBJ Drive/MLK Drive intersection to be transformed, with enhanced pavement, landscaped islands and planting, and bench seating, in addition to the monument.
“I think that would be great,” said Arts Commission member Diann McCabe. “I think that would look better. We don’t have formal permission to do that, but we’ve talked with (Interim City Manager) Laurie Moyer about that, and we’ve talked with the owners of (the other three corners of the intersection) to let them know that we’re working on the project, but we haven’t done anything further on that. They were positive about the project. It would be cool, I think, to transform that whole intersection.”
Hays County gave the southwest corner of the LBJ Drive/MLK Drive intersection to the city on Martin Luther King Day. On Jan. 18, participants in the annual Martin Luther King Day march paused on the southwest corner of the LBJ Drive/MLK Drive intersection to witness San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz and Hays County Judge Liz Sumter formally transfer the property with their signatures.
The other three corners of the intersection are privately owned. Morris said funding for the purchase of the other three corners would probably not be allocated from the permanent art fund. Morris said the city has no plans at this time to purchase the other three corners. McCabe said an additional, as-yet undetermined amount of city funding may be required for “site preparation” if the council approves the project.
The Crossroads Project Group formed in 2008 to plan and raise funds for the MLK/LBJ monument. The group’s website describes it as “a diverse group of San Marcos citizens representing a wide range of public and private organizations in partnership with a variety of city departments and personnel,” motivated by “a range of personal the social commitments that finds inspirational focus in creating a permanent, public, commemorative art installation at the unique San Marcos intersection of LBJ and MLK Drives.”
The LBJ-MLK Crossroads Project Committee sought funds for the monument as early as January. Committee members then said they expected the project to cost from $100,000-$200,000. San Marcos Arts Council President Kelsey Jones, who is on the committee, said in January that she hoped to have funding promises from public and private sources by the end of February, and construction completed within a year.
San Marcos City Councilmember Chris Jones, the only African-American on the council, is on the LBJ-MLK Crossroads Project Committee. Jones spoke to Martin Luther King Day marchers with a megaphone in January and asked them for help in transforming the intersection “into a place of dignity and hope that reflects the warmth of these two extraordinary men.”
The Texas Commission on the Arts recently awarded the San Marcos Arts Commission with a $10,000 grant to support arts in the community. Projects awarded funding with the $10,000 grant must be related to tourism, do not have to meet other requirements of HOT expenditures, and the city council is not required to dictate how the grant is used.
The Arts Commission in June awarded the grant funds to the Fall Concert Series, piano lessons for low-income children at the Centro Cultural Hispano de San Marcos, a free juggling camp for children, and a Powwow in the Schools project. Morris said the $10,000 grant represents the only one the city has received for art projects.
“Permanent art projects cost a lot of money,” Morris said. “And so what the (arts) commission generally does is, they try to save up, and rather than doling out a small bit here and there — you’re not really getting a lot of value for your expenditure on permanent art. But if you save it, you’re able to expend more to get a better product in the end. And a good thing about the hotel occupancy tax and the permanent art fund is that those are funds that local taxpayers aren’t expending, they aren’t paying that tax. It’s from the visitors that come to our community. That’s where those funds are coming from. And the commission can’t spend what they don’t have. So we’re not borrowing to install permanent art in our community, but rather, saving money from what our visitors are paying in hotel occupancy tax to make it a better place for our community without taxing the local taxpayer. So, we can thank our tourists for the permanent art that we have here.”Email | Print