A group of artists and arts advocates meeting at Eyedrum arts center Monday night agreed that legal action is needed to force the city of Atlanta to implement its own percent-for-the-arts program for public art.
The question, however, is: What arts organizations will be willing to put their local grants on the line and sue the city?
The issue has heated up since CL recently reported that an in-house study shows that, over the past four years, the city has collected only $1.7 million for the program while letting additional millions go uncollected. Under a longtime ordinance, the city is required to set aside 1.5 percent of the cost of new construction projects for public art. But the city's own report estimates that as much as $3.6 million has gone uncollected because no one at City Hall seems to be enforcing the ordinance.
The report was completed last fall and kept under wraps until activist Bill Gignilliat recently gained a copy through an open-records request, but the city still has apparently done little to rectify the problem.
The goal of a lawsuit by arts groups would be to push the city to account for the money that should have been collected and to put a system in place to make sure the percent-for-the-arts money is collected from now on.
Arts advocate Evan Levy announced that he had spoken to several local attorneys interested in taking what could well be a high-profile -- and easily winnable -- case. The trick will be finding arts groups willing to sign on as plaintiffs, since most receive some funding from the city's Office of Cultural Affairs.
Eyedrum, which currently gets about $5,000 a year from the city, could become the lead plaintiff if its board gives the go-ahead in coming weeks, says Chairwoman Nisa Asokan.
"We could be shooting ourselves in the foot," she says, "but if not Eyedrum, then who else?"