More than 50 people attended last night’s River Arts District Artists meeting, which was followed by a special gathering when representatives from the City of Asheville, in collaboration with the Asheville Design Center, brainstormed with residents about how to incorporate public art in the River Arts District Transportation Improvement Project.
Economic Development Specialist Brenda Mills explained that, during RADTIP, 1-percent of the annual budget is allocated for public art. That amount is currently $136,000 annually, but will be reassessed each year. The project is slated for completion around 2020.
The 2016 focus is on Right of Way Acquisition, set to be finalized in June. “This project will construct a 2.2 mile piece of the Wilma Dykeman Riverway, a planned 17-mile multimodal corridor in Asheville along the French Broad and Swannanoa Rivers. In addition to improved intersections and bridge reconstruction, the project includes roadway improvements, sidewalks, bike lanes, greenways on-street parking, and stormwater improvements along Lyman Street and Riverside Drive adjacent to the French Broad River,” says a city-generated document. “The project will improve the horizontal and vertical clearance at the Norfolk Southern Railroad bridge, accommodate truck turning movements at the intersection of Craven Street and Riverside Drive and improve three railroad crossings in the area.”
Additionally, the policy also aims to “commission, acquire and maintain works of public art of the highest quality, with public participation,” says Mills. The city hopes to make its call to artists regional, rather than national, and one goal of the series of RADTIP meetings is to introduce prospective artists to personnel involved with the acquisition process.
Artwork commissions will ultimately be determined by a jury of members of the city culture committee, local artists and community leaders.
Last night’s meeting included two interactive stations. At one, attendees could list ideas for what types and mediums of public art should be considered, along with suggestions of themes for the project and what story it should ultimately tell. Ideas included interactive art and art that reflects the RAD and French Broad River histories.
The second station, a printed map of the 2.2-mile stretch along the French Broad River, allowed attendees to note specific areas where they thought art should be installed. Suggestions included a rotating display of public art, a walking maze and an amphitheater.