Newport will fill funding gap for sculpture exhibit in Civic Center Park


Newport Beach will cover a nearly $20,000 funding gap to install the next round of sculptures at Civic Center Park.

The City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved transferring $19,711 from elsewhere in the city’s cultural arts budget to the account earmarked for the rotating sculpture exhibit, which will start its fourth two-year phase this fall.

The sculpture garden, which started in 2014, is funded by a mix of public and private dollars. But in 2017, the council approved the third and fourth phases of the exhibit with the conditions that artist payments in Phase 4 come from private sources, the Arts Commission and city staff cut project management fees by half, and municipal workers install the pieces.


Despite donations through the nonprofit Newport Beach Arts Foundation, the commission fell short on the payments it gives artists who loan their sculptures to the city for the exhibition, leading commissioners to request the funds transfer.

Commission Chairwoman Arlene Greer said the transfer will motivate the commission and its foundation partners to continue to raise private funds.

Foundation secretary Carmen Smith agreed.

“We will work the hardest we can as Arts Foundation members to bring more money to the table to make there be a Phase 5, make there be a Phase 6,” Smith said. “But I think people who donate to these things have to know it’s going to go forward, that it’s not a one-shot deal.”

The total cost of Phase 4 is $134,711 — $84,711 for project management, curation, installation and deinstallation and $50,000 for the artist payments.

Before Tuesday’s request, the Phase 4 account had $100,000. The Arts Foundation had committed $15,000 of the remaining $34,711 of the cost, leaving $19,711 to make up.

The foundation has given the city a total of $41,000 in the past two years for various arts projects, Greer said.

In addition to covering the funding shortfall, the council agreed that the city could pay Arts OC — the project manager that has worked with the city on the program since its inception — the full $37,500 it bid rather than cut back, and can keep the firm Arts OC uses to install the pieces rather than use municipal employees.

The commission said there are cost efficiencies in hiring a business that specializes in art installation.

Councilman Kevin Muldoon said he’s not the biggest supporter of spending public money on art but that this was a relatively small request to maintain an established program.

“We’re not voting to create a new sculpture garden,” he said. “We’re voting to maintain art that’s appreciated already, and I think the organizations have done a fantastic job of raising these funds. That shows that it’s not simply coming to the city for this handout.”

Councilwoman Joy Brenner said she takes her grandchildren to tour the sculpture-lined path when she doesn’t take them to traditional museums.

“I will take them to the park and we can talk about those sculptures and we have the most interesting discussion,” she said.

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