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melanie alexander

Muscatine Art Center Director Melanie Alexander proposes the creation of a public art commission before Muscatine City Council. 

MUSCATINE — Plans for a new committee to bring more murals, sculpture and other community art to Muscatine are a go.

During Thursday's in-depth meeting, Muscatine City Council heard a proposal from Muscatine Art Center Director Melanie Alexander to create a public art commission.

She said the purpose of the commission is to "strengthen the community of Muscatine through arts and cultural programs" beyond what the art center already does.

In her presentation, Alexander explained that a group of six residents met throughout the year to identify how other communities in Iowa support public art. They found communities with active public art programs also had formal public art commissions or advisory committees, most had policies or specific processes regarding public art projects and some had a percentage of funding for art policy or access to some public dollars.

Actions of the proposed commission include making recommendations to the council for activities and projects, using city property and budgeted city funds, when available, on those activities. Alexander also mentioned seeking grant funding for projects and she didn't expect to be any upfront cost for the commission. The group would also evaluate art gifts before installation in the city.

A challenge they identified was how to create an infrastructure to work on public art projects "on a more regular basis," Alexander said. The group will also work to understand what is allowed regarding altering city property such as painting parking meters or manhole covers and what areas in the city could be enhanced.

"In the time that this group has met there has been conversation about is there a chance to put public art either on the riverfront or a roundabout," she said.

The commission would streamline those conversations with one staff member from Parks and Recreation Department and the art center along with five residents appointed by the council. 

Creating a permanent commission will require city staff to develop an ordinance, City Administrator Gregg Mandsager said, which will include information about member terms, by-laws, and duties and responsibilities.

Councilmen Santos Saucedo and Kelcey Brackett voiced their support for the commission and the council approved the proposal. The ordinance is planned to be on the agenda before the beginning of the new fiscal year in July. Video of the meeting is available on the City of Muscatine YouTube channel.

"Muscatine Public Arts Commission," Saucedo suggested as the formal title for the committee.

"Sounds good to me," Alexander said. "We just want to exist."

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