State lawmakers are considering a bill that would end a program that dedicates money for art in public buildings.
Rep. Lynn Gattis, a Wasilla Republican, sponsored the bill, which gets rid of a requirement that one percent of funds for public projects, like schools and courthouses, go toward art. It would allow the Alaska Council on the Arts to spend their remaining fund balance over the next five years, but then shut down the program at that point. Gattis said she introduced the legislation because of the state’s $4 billion revenue shortfall.
“In no way am I saying that those artists should not continue their artwork and try to sell it,” Gattis said. “All this says is that the state will no longer be sponsoring them in the same manner.”
The “Percent for Art in Public Places” program was established in 1975, and the public testimony that was offered on Tuesday defended it. Democrats on the committee, like Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins of Sitka, also argued that the program was needed for the character of the state.
“I think it’s really important that the places we live in and work in don’t look like buildings you could just find in Kansas or Ohio – nothing against Kansas or Ohio,” Kreiss-Tomkins said.
While the size of the program fluctuates with the size of the state’s capital budget, the average annual cost is about $1 million.