We salute all those in the community who have fought hard over the years to install art in public places around Rock Hill. But we also welcome the new proposal to formalize the process of adding art to public spaces.
We don’t use the word “fought” loosely. Public art often is at the bottom of many people’s priority list, and with something else always taking precedence, public art often is rejected.
So, yes, it usually is a battle to convince people that public art enhances our lives and adds something of value to the public square. That’s especially true when public money is involved.
But if the selection and placement process for public art were to become more formalized and democratic, maybe some of the controversy could be toned down. That, no doubt, is one of the factors that inspired a proposal to create a Rock Hill Designs Committee under the auspices of the Rock Hill Economic Development Corp. to oversee the process of installing art in the city.
The plan was hatched by Barre Mitchell, president of the Arts Council of York County. The proposal calls for a committee consisting of people representing a wide range of the community.
The panel would include members from the city, Rock Hill schools, Winthrop University, Clinton College, York Technical College, the Arts Council of York County, RHEDC’s Quality of Life Committee and others. Mitchell presented the proposal at the city’s recent annual planning retreat for economic development.
The idea got an enthusiastic endorsement from Mayor Doug Echols, who hopes Rock Hill will become known as an “art city.” He said the city should have an art trail, which could be supported and promoted through the hospitality tax.
Even without a formal selection process, Rock Hill already has nurtured many public art projects. Bike racks designed by Winthrop students can be found at several locations, and more art by Winthrop students is on display at the sculpture gardens at the corner of Dave Lyle Boulevard and East Main Street.
More art is prominently featured in plans for the new downtown Fountain Park. The park, bounded by Saluda and Black streets and Elizabeth Lane, will feature a water fountain as a centerpiece. The park also will include art inspired by Rock Hill students.
Mitchell hopes that the city will fund two or three community art projects over the next three years. The art would be included in the budgets for public projects such as Fountain Park. Private donors might also play a role.
Once the initial controversy over a public art installation dies down, residents typically come to love the pieces. We doubt that many residents would advocate getting rid of the Civitas statues welcoming drivers along Dave Lyle Boulevard to the city, even though those statues provoked protests when they first went up.
An endorsement from a representative committee, we think, could make it easier for residents to accept more art projects. We hope the process also would inspire more projects with a variety of themes throughout the city.
Kudos to Mitchell for introducing this idea. We hope it gains momentum in the days ahead.