Mayor: Expand 1% for arts, and more ‘arts’ definitions



The Anchorage “1% for Arts” regulations don’t cover nearly enough public works projects, according to Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, who will submit a proposed ordinance on Tuesday, Oct. 8 to expand the types of projects that must dedicate 1 percent of construction costs to arts.

The ordinance will be considered by the Anchorage Assembly at its regularly scheduled meeting.

A letter from the Municipal Arts Advisory Commission to the Assembly supports the additional projects to include roads, bridges, tunnels, parks, trails, playgrounds, and sidewalks.

Current regulations include 1 percent being subtracted from construction needs for arts during building, remodeling, or renovation of a municipal building, school, or other facility.

[Read the Municipal Arts Advisory Commission letter here.]

“Without designating 1% of the project for arts, the outcome is often public facilities that do not incorporate elements of our rich cultural heritage or unique artistic elements,” the group wrote to Berkowitz. “Large scale infrastructure projects lacking in art are more difficult to integrate into neighborhoods, and deprive the community opportunities for beautification that improve property values, reduce crime, and increase quality of life. Moreover, art in public spaces provide educational opportunities for young people to interact and learn about different art forms while engaging in day-to-day activities.”

Large-scale projects are also more likely to cost more than $1 million, which is the threshold for the 1 percent for arts requirement. A $5 million trail rehabilitation project would need to have a $50,000 taken from construction and dedicated to artistic expression.

The revised ordinance also proposes adding two more types of art to be covered by the 1 percent for arts program: Digital/video art that may incorporate laser, lighting, or sound; and ephemeral art — that which is not permanent, the tis biodegradable or that is performance art.

Adding roads, trails, tunnels, and bridges to the 1 percent program will, in fact, increase the cost of projects by that amount.

Of the 1 percent to be dedicated to art, a fraction of that would be shaved off for preservation of the city’s public art. So that the 1 percent for art would become a .09 percent for actual art, and the rest would be set aside. A city arts committee would be established, appointed by the mayor.

There is no fiscal note attached to the proposed changes.

Anchorage voters passed $4 million in parks improvement bonds during the last municipal election in April. If the ordinance passes, some of those projects will be subject to the new 1% definitions.

Other proposed changes to the 1 percent for arts program can be seen at this link.

Berkowitz this summer declared Anchorage in a civil emergency due to perceived and projected problems that might develop around the city’s notorious drug-addicted population of transients. The civil emergency ended in September, he announced to the Assembly.

[Read: Berkowitz’s civil emergency extended]

Now that it is behind Berkowitz, it’s onward to expanding public funding for arts.


  1. “San Francisco here we come….”. I don’t know why any mention of Berkowitz makes a mental connection in my brain to San Francisco. Good grief. More frivolous c—p being foisted upon taxpayers. I love art. Do not get me wrong. I believe art is an essential part of life and an important part of human expression. As a Christian, I believe God is the ultimate artist and as we are created in His image, we also have a need and ability for artistic expression. BUT I do not believe providing art in public places should be a responsibility of government. Let private entities manage and fund public art. Let art be donated for public display. Do not force taxpayers to fund it!

  2. I love great public art. Except for the Gorillas by Chester creek, most public art in Anchorage takes away from the beauty. If you can’t do it well, don’t spend the money. Use money for new fences, like the one above the jail on E 5th. Looks better than the salmon on Northbound C Street, the fishing reel baskets on the 15th overpass, or the eagle at SW intersection of Turdor and L. Otis.
    Another waste is some of the landscaping. Like of E 5/6th . All of the trees are dead and the planting area is now weeds. Only a committee of Democrats could have required trees instead of maintenance free cement. No individual is dumb enough to think trees would survive there.
    Then there is maintenance of what we have. The “Welcome to Anchorage” sign on E5th is disgraceful. Crooked. Different colors. Great example of no one caring, because it is no one’s money.

    • I agree. Every time I drive down E. 5th/6th Avenue and see all those weeds and dead trees it makes me wonder why the city even spent the money on doing that if they weren’t going to maintain the area. If the city isn’t going to maintain any landscaping, then they need to stop wasting money on it and do something that is clean looking and maintenance free, i.e. cement.

  3. Anchorage, you’ve got to clean your city up. Homeless people that are drunk and staggers out into the lane of traffic, needles on sidewalks, piles upon piles of human waste, urinating in public, fights, get rid of this kind of stuff before you plant a tree.

  4. Why bright blue for light poles? They stick out like a sore thumb, and are worse than blue tarps and that awful orange plastic fencing. I’m all in for making a city beautiful, but clean up the homeless problem first before spending tax payers money, either locally or federal.

  5. Why do I have to pay for someone to be employed to make art. It is not a necessary function to make the city run.

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