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Fort Worth Road Projects Run Over Arts Funding

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Joel Thomas
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FORT WORTH (CBS 11 NEWS) – A battle of streets vs. statues and big vs. small is shaping up in Fort Worth.

Anytime a bond package has been passed to help fix Fort Worth’s roads two percent of the money has been set aside for art projects.  But in its next bond package the city says it needs more of that money for roads.  The end result has Fort Worth rolling back arts funding by half — from $4 million to $2 million.

Now that the available money has become more precious, the debate among city council members is where should those funds be spent?

Right now, art money is spent in the same place the road projects are.  So, because there’s road construction on a street near an isolated park hundreds of dollars will be spent for artwork in the park, or a mural nearby.  Now, the council is asking if that is the best way to spend the arts money or would it be better to pool all the money together for one big city art project?

“We’re dead in the water for anything that is a significant project,” Council Member Zim Zimmerman said of the city’s current policy of putting art near road construction.  “And what we ought to be looking at is that art that is going to be significant to the entire city and not just the one district?”

The money could be used for something iconic like the famous Man with a Briefcase sculpture downtown.  But others argue the money should be spent in neighborhoods, where it can reflect the area’s culture and be enjoyed by the people who live there.

“Part of the beauty of the current policy is you had public art money, even from the streets, dispersed throughout the city. So, everyone got a fair share,” said Council Member Sal Espino.  “So, that’s my concern with it.”

People in the arts community say whatever is decided; the city should remember the arts dollars won’t stretch as far.

“I think the hard part is figuring out where we are going to be able to put the art and how many pieces we can afford,” said Martha Peters, with the Arts Council of Fort Worth and Tarrant County.  “It may be shocking.  It will be fewer.  But they’ll be wonderful.”

The council will pick up the issue again during the second week of February.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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