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Council adopts new public art policy
council public art pic
Public art, like the statue of town founder John Mitchell that stands in Central Park in downtown Turlock, could soon see a resurgence as the City Council adopted a new public art policy. - photo by Journal file photo

In an effort to encourage more public art in Turlock, the City Council unanimously voted to adopt a Public Art Program on Tuesday.

The new public art policy and guidelines lays out the process a group or individual would go through to sponsor a work of art that is placed within the public sphere of Turlock. Under the policy, all projects would be directly managed and controlled by the City of Turlock.

During public discussion, former Turlock City Council member Mary Jackson questioned the legality of the policy's lack of defined standards for what is acceptable art.

City attorney Phaedra Norton addressed Jackson's concerns and said that the language in the policy comes from what has been upheld by the court regarding public art, specifically where stated: "The City of Turlock will be acting as a speaker and a patron of the arts and has sole discretion to select those messages it want to promote."

"The City is allowed to favor one form of art over others," said Norton.

Although the City of Turlock will have the final say on what projects get approved, the policy is designed to offer a wide range of artistic styles, themes and media.

Jackson also questioned the need for the City to create a new public art policy, stating that the former Turlock Arts Commission had a process in place when previous works of art were considered, like Califia.

"The Council is trying to be's better to establish a process before an issue comes forward," said Council member Steven Nascimento.

Mayor Gary Soiseth concurred with Nascimento and reiterated that the goal of the new policy was to encourage more groups to sponsor a public art project.

As detailed in the policy, any group or individual who wishes to display public art must first complete a Public Artwork Permit application, which will be reviewed by City staff and the Parks, Arts and Recreation Commission and  to ensure conformance with all criteria and applicable land use regulations before appearing before City Council.

Following initial review of the project, the applicant will have to contact all adjacent property owners within 1,000 feet in writing, outlining the proposed project and notifying them of a public hearing where they will be given the opportunity to provide feedback on the project. The hearing will take place during a PARC meeting.

If recommended for approval by the PARC after the hearing, the application will be forwarded to the Turlock City Council for consideration.

Once a project is approved by the Council, the applicant and artist are required to sign a detailed agreement with the City of Turlock that outlines the terms and conditions of the work to be performed.

While the process is now in place for new public art projects, Turlock is already on its way to a diverse public art representation.

Most visitors to downtown Turlock know of Califia, the 14-foot fountain statue that sits on the corner of Market and Main Street, but the City has a lot more to offer art lovers.  At City Hall, there is a stained glass window that depicts a Valley scene. The former Turlock Police Services building hosts two different public art pieces: Five Core Values and Kids Walk bronze medallions set in the walkway along the facility and Figure in Motion, a steel structure.  The Armillary Sphere positioned on the corner of Monte Vista Avenue and Countryside Drive is also public art. And the City of Turlock celebrated its centennial in 2008 with the placement of a life-sized bronze statue of town founder, John Mitchell, in Central Park.