It’s not surprising that Enid city commissioners seemed to balk at funding art projects through the Public Arts Commission of Enid (PACE), but it is disappointing they don’t seem to appreciate the benefit public arts projects have brought to the city.
PACE was created by the city’s capital-arts ordinance to develop guidelines and standards for the selection, display and maintenance of art, and to acquire, by purchase or donation, works of art which shall become the city of Enid’s collection.
Despite commissioners’ objections in this last budget round, we believe arts funding has an appropriate place in the budget.
The consternation this year comes as the public arts funding budget has increased 90% over last year due to the capital-arts ordinance. Some commissioners have complained the funding doesn’t qualify as a “need” for the city of Enid.
Enid city commissioners have had a precarious relationship with the arts for quite some time. It’s understandable that commissioners want to be able to justify the arts funding to their constituents who may see other needs as a priority over arts funding.
We know there are people in Enid who believe the entire city budget should be spent to fix streets. (Good news — the street repair fund in this budget is larger than it’s been in at least a decade.) However, there is a place and a need for public arts investment in the city’s budget.
According to the Americans for the Arts, “public art can be an essential element when a municipality wishes to progress economically and to be viable to its current and prospective citizens.”
And, for a small rural town, Enid has a dynamic arts culture that has received a great deal of positive publicity recently. The murals around town have been featured prominently in news publications across the state and nation. They get rave reviews on Tripadvisor. The “Under Her Wing Was the Universe” project has been featured in Discover Oklahoma and other web sites.
PACE chair Christy Northcutt pointed out that Enid’s arts projects brought many people to Enid as a way to escape the isolation of the pandemic. They traveled to Enid for the murals, stayed for lunch or dinner and spent sales tax dollars in the community. The large murals also deter graffiti.
Frankly, some of the arguments of the commissioners are pretty weak. The arts funding is a minuscule part of the overall budget, so it’s not robbing other worthy city projects. Also, city commissioners have the final say about any funding for arts projects.
The bottom line is, Enid’s public arts projects have been a source of pride for residents and a source of interest for tourists and visitors. They help give an overall good impression of Enid, which is important to economic development.
We hope the commissioners realize that this small investment in the budget is helping make Enid a good place to live, work and enjoy a good quality of life.