San Rafael approves public art verification program

San Rafael approved a streamlined application process for public art projects after a successful year-long pilot program to make it easier to submit proposals.

City council voted unanimously this week to form a public art advisory committee that will make recommendations to council, which will have the final say on projects. Approval also establishes a set of criteria for reviewing applications.

“We know there are so many artists in our community,” Vice Mayor Rachel Kertz said at Monday’s meeting. “And it’s a great opportunity to showcase the work that’s out there, as well as bring people to San Rafael and use the spaces we have for public art.”

Cristine Alilovich, deputy city manager, said the Canal Arts Initiative and the Terra Linda Social Justice Community Art Group approached the city in 2020 asking how to submit entries.

Alilovich said that before the new program, applications for murals on public and private properties had to be reviewed by the Design Review Board and the Planning Commission. Submitting an application came with a fee of $8,000. The review process took up to six months, city officials said. For other types of public art, such as statues, fees ranged from $1,167 to $4,693, depending on the size of the work.

Alilovich said the staff sees this as an area to make the request fairer.

There is no fee to submit an application for review under the program, and projects will not require design review or Planning Board approval.

Instead, the city’s director of library and recreation requests will be subject to a staff review of at least eight weeks, Catherine Quffa said. Staff will determine the logistics of the project, what maintenance might be required, and if there are any security issues.

The Public Art Review Board will then review the proposal. If art is proposed for Pickleweed Park or the Albert J. Boro Community Center, the Pickleweed Advisory Committee will also need to approve the project. Otherwise, the project is submitted to the municipal council for final approval. The Art Review Committee will have the final say on short-term projects and will not need board approval.

Staff will work with applicants to revise rejected projects, Quffa said.

Criteria for staff and board to consider include the readiness of the project, the qualifications of the artist or group proposing the project, sources of funding, community contribution, maintenance, design and the diversity.

The 56ft mural sponsored by the Canal Arts Initiative was completed last summer. The artwork was installed at 3301 Kerner Blvd., a building that will soon be converted into permanent affordable housing with supportive services, to serve as a sign of welcome to the community.

Kristen Jacobson, executive director of Youth In Arts, the nonprofit sponsor of the Terra Linda Social Justice Community Art Group, said they were working on the final fundraising stages to set up the project.

This project was in response to the chalk mural honoring the life of Breonna Taylor that was removed from the intersection of Manuel T. Freitas Drive and Las Gallinas Avenue.

“We are so excited about the process and the public art review board, and we totally support community organizations, like ours, to be partnered in this process,” Jacobson said.

Council member Maribeth Bushey said, “One thing we’ve learned through the pandemic is the importance of art, and I can’t wait to have more art in San Rafael.

Ryan H. Bowman