By Mary Hladky
For years, Andrea O’Rourke exhorted fellow City Council members to place art in public spaces and establish a public art program.
Her idea finally gained traction last year when the council made an art in public places program, headed by a public art coordinator, a strategic priority.
Now that program is taking shape. Veronica Hatch, the former director of community and family programs at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, joined the city in September to be that coordinator.
In introducing Hatch to the Federation of Boca Raton Homeowner Associations on Nov. 7, O’Rourke said she pursued her vision “like a dog with a bone” until her final council term ended in March with her as the city’s deputy mayor.
Now that Hatch is on board, “this is the dawning of a new age and I am super-excited about it,” O’Rourke said.
Boca is late to the game. More than 60 Florida cities, counties, colleges and universities have established public art programs, with Miami-Dade County taking the lead in 1973, according to the Florida Association of Public Art Professionals.
In southeast Palm Beach County, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach and Florida Atlantic University have programs.
How they are funded varies. Governments typically have paid for the programs and the art. But public-private partnerships increasingly are being used, according to Americans for the Arts.
Many private developers also are incorporating and funding public art in their projects, the organization said. One example is the Boca Raton Innovation Campus, which has art exhibits lining the walls of common areas in the former IBM headquarters building and additional art outside the building.
It will take some time before the city acquires and places art. The first step is drafting an ordinance.
Twelve city staff members from departments including recreation services, municipal services, development services and the Office of Economic Development are beginning that work now. They will also get input from city residents and public art experts, and will examine what other cities and counties already are doing.
“We are thinking about what public art can mean for the city of Boca,” Hatch said. “We are also thinking of placemaking and the spaces these works will be in.”
She hopes the ordinance will be presented to the City Council sometime next spring.
The city then must create a master plan that sets goals and identifies more specifics. Residents and experts again will be consulted.
The city will establish a public art fund that will hold money obtained from city contributions, private funding and other sources that would be used to acquire art and install it.
The city also will partner with the Boca Raton Museum of Art, other cultural organizations and universities.
The overarching goal is to make the city more vibrant, attractive and welcoming with the aim of attracting businesses and tourists that will boost the economy.
“Public art thrives on the idea of people wanting to be surrounded by wonderful opportunities to enjoy the arts and culture,” Hatch said.