When the Frederick aldermen passed a resolution this summer about equity, they probably didn’t expect that public art would be one of the first issues they would deal with.
A discussion Wednesday on plans for a mural at a dog park in downtown Frederick and the renovation of the city’s official seal and a historic flag kept in City Hall turned into a conversation about how public art projects are clustered in some parts of the city and absent in others.
The city approved a resolution in August to look at decisions to make sure they address the needs of marginalized and underrepresented communities in the city.
Under a proposal being discussed, the city would allocate $10,000 for a mural at the public dog park at North Bentz Street and Carroll Parkway, $2,572 to restore and preserve the city seal that hangs in the boardroom at City Hall, and $21,300 to restore and preserve the Shawbaker Flag, a U.S. flag dating from the 1860s that is kept on the second floor of City Hall.
Alderman Ben MacShane said he couldn’t support spending the money as planned.
The dog park mural would be very nice, but it would be another piece of art in the downtown area, MacShane said. Both the seal and the flag are only seen by people who come to City Hall, he said.
Public funding should prioritize art throughout the city, he said.
Attention and resources in the city too often go to the neighborhoods whose residents have the time and money to advocate for themselves, he said.
The aldermen are expected to use the rest of the money allocated to the city’s Public Art Commission for the current fiscal year, about $15,000, to fund projects in parks or public spaces in neighborhoods that haven’t been previously included.
Mayor Michael O’Connor said he thinks there’s been an equity question on how public art projects have been placed, and the city should do all that it can to make sure that other areas get attention for public art.
Alderman Roger Wilson said this was the first example of the city’s decision to look at policy through a lens of equity.
“We need to stick to that commitment that we made a couple months ago,” Wilson said.