Image ©John Branch for the Rivard Report, 2017.

City Councilman Joe Krier (D9) earned the nickname “Councilman Cheese Grater” after voicing his dislike for “Liquid Crystal,” a 30-foot-tall sculpture located in the Henry B. González Convention Center’s new main lobby. The City paid $1 million for the interactive piece by London-based artist Jason Bruges.

“I just don’t get it,” he’s told his Council colleagues in the past. “I have yet to have a human being tell me they like the art in the Convention Center,” he added during a Council briefing session on March 1.

On Thursday, Krier pledged to file a Council Consideration Request (CCR) that calls for a re-evaluation of how the City selects artists and pays for public art. He’d like to see less taxpayer dollars go to public art and what’s left go to local, or at least Texan, artists.

An ordinance approved by City Council in 2011 requires 1% of every capital improvement project budget in the city to go to public art that relates to the project or site. Each bond project category – parks, streets, facilities, drainage, and neighborhood improvements – also includes 1% for public art. This year’s $850 million bond package includes $8.5 million set aside for art.

Krier wants to remove that 1% art requirement from some, if not all bond categories. He said he would circulate his CCR to fellow Council members, and some responded favorably.

“Thank you, Councilman Cheese Grater – excuse me, Councilman Krier,” Councilman Mike Gallagher (D10) quipped earlier this month. “I really do like this idea of saying, ‘Let’s look [for artists] locally first.’”

While the Department of Arts and Culture already has programming that emphasizes support of local artists, weaving the work of national and international artists into the city’s fabric of public art plays a large role in that support.

“When a San Antonian artist goes to New York and does a piece and brings that experience back – that’s something you don’t get if you close your doors to other communities,” Department of Arts and Culture Director Debbie Racca-Sittre said. In other words, if San Antonio is closed to “outside” artists, then why would other cities be open to ours?

Krier will need five signatures of support from Council members before he can formally move forward on the issue.

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John Branch

Cartoonist John Branch has commented on San Antonio and Texas politics for decades; his work is syndicated nationally by King Features.