Public art options for Birmingham presented

Birmingham City Commissioners on Monday, August 24, unanimously accepted a report from the city's public arts board on how art can enhance terminating vistas. City planner Brooks Cowan explained that terminating vistas are identified in the downtown overlay district as buildings or structures that terminate a view with architectural features of enhanced character and visibility. The public arts board created a report which included an inventory of terminating vistas and recommendations of ways in which public art may enhance terminating vistas in downtown Birmingham, as well as policy recommendations and implementation guidelines to improve the process of installing public art in such locations. Cowan explained the term was first referenced in the downtown 2016 Plan. The public arts board determined 20 locations that qualified, but chose seven locations for art as a high priority and at terminating vistas. “We also determined recommendations for public space enhancements,” he said, noting not all of the locations are terminating vistas. The recommended locations are at Oak and N. Old Woodward; Harmon and N. Old Woodward; Ferndale and Hamilton Row; Hamilton Row and N. Old Woodward, to cover an electrical box; Kroger, at Maple and Woodward, where there is a piece of art work, but which they felt should have the sculpture lit; in front of the Birmingham Theater on S. Old Woodward, which was done last summer, where an electrical box was artistically redone as a popcorn box; and the southwest wall of the 555 Building, which would be good spot for a mural or other artwork, he said. “Birmingham already has 15 sculptures, but only one is at a terminating vista,” Cowan said. Public art can create interest in other ways, he said, such as interesting furniture to active spaces with people-oriented seating; artistic reuse of utilities, such as electrical boxes; lighting, such as solar lighting; and wall art, including mosaics, murals or tile. “Those could be particularly useful for terminating vistas with large blank walls,” he said. He added that since city ordinances prohibit their installation, ordinances would need to be altered to permit them. He noted that issues with art installations have come up, and those would need to be clarified. “I think it would be important to come back with a staff report on how to implement this report, to outline how to best implement this report,” said city manager Joe Valentine.

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