YORKVILLE – After recently passing downtown zoning and streetscapes regulations, Yorkville city officials are now talking about creating a downtown art program.

Krysti Barksdale-Noble, community development director for Yorkville, said during the city's economic development committee meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 5 that a public art and sculpture program was recommended in the recently proposed downtown overlay district’s streetscapes plan as a way to interact with residents within the downtown area. In response to the recommendation, she said, city staff drafted a proposed plan for such a program.

Barksdale-Noble said staff identified 29 downtown locations where public art could be displayed, including six locations for potential wall murals, three locations for permanent interactive sculptures, four locations for temporary art installations and 16 banner locations. She said artist qualifications could include being enrolled in a high school or post-secondary school art class or program, along with program addendums including the city working hand in hand with local schools' or community college art programs for the projects.

But the biggest component Barksdale-Noble wanted city officials to discuss is project funding, she said.

"There’s no funding or budget line item" for the public art program as proposed currently, Barksdale-Noble said.

Barksdale-Noble said wall murals could cost $30,000 each, depending on the size. She said utility box art could cost between $400 and $1,000 each, with the less expensive options including manhole covers at about $150 each and banner art costing between $120 and $150 each.

Barksdale-Noble said other communities that have done similar programs have used money from general funds or from tax increment financing, or TIF, funds. She said it could also not cost the city anything if they used surfaces on city buildings as canvases and school art programs would provide materials, for example.

Yorkville Ward 3 Alderman Joel Frieders said he has seen similar art installations being effective in downtown Aurora, citing the Hope Wings mural by artist Sam Cervantes that was painted on the side of a building near Galena Boulevard as one example. He said he has seen people driving over there look over their shoulder at the mural, finding a parking spot blocks away and walking over there to take pictures of or with the mural.

“And as stupid and as vain and as vapid as you might think it is, you’re actually tying people from all over the region to a specific spot and people take pride in having been to these things,” Frieders said.

Frieders said he likes the idea of incorporating area schools, not just Yorkville schools, into the program. Overall, he said, he is in favor of the project as presented and would want to keep getting more public and business input on the proposal.

Frieders said it's good the city has financial estimates for the projects. However, he said, he wants city officials to remain open to the proposal regardless of how much the projects would potentially cost the city or where the funds would be drawn from.

“Because I don’t want to have to keep on saying ‘Well, there’s no money, we’re going to focus on cop cars,’ " Frieders said. "We have to focus on cop cars, but you don’t not have a Christmas, too."

City officials expressed concerns during the committee meeting about the funds being drawn from the city's TIF funds, since there's currently a negative balance on the funds. They also said they would want to explore additional incentives for downtown businesses to participate in the program, like figuring out a way in which they could get tax write-offs for the projects.

Barksdale-Noble said she will take the feedback back with staff and will work with the city attorney to drafting a policy resolution to bring back to the committee. She said she anticipates having those materials ready to bring back to city officials by the January economic development committee meeting.

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