City officials will spend $350,000 for a public art installation as part of reconstruction of the Schantz Avenue bridge, which some residents think is a waste of funds.
The project will include a replacement of the bridge, work on the retaining wall along northbound South Dixie Drive, a barrier wall and a vandal fence. Work is expected to begin in 2019.
Steven Bergstresser, Kettering Assistant City Manager, said that the Kettering CitySites Public Art Committee solicited and reviewed proposals from artists for an installation that will coincide with the reconstruction of the bridge.
“The stated goals were to make the public art installation a signature piece for the Kettering community, visible day and night, properly scaled to surroundings and appealing to the mass audience that will enjoy the art as they travel along the surrounding corridors,” Bergstresser said.
The public art committee selected artist Vicki Scuri to design and create the public art. She has been connected with popular installations throughout the United States including Kansas, North Carolina and Maryland.
According to city officials, Scuri’s extensive public art experience, community engagement practices and innovative methods of art integration into public infrastructure projects contributed to her winning proposal.
One resident, Sterling Abernathy, said he’s opposed to the money being spent on the art installation because the money should instead be used for rebuilding streets and infrastructure.
“This is not what our taxes should be used for,” he said at a recent council meeting. “Spending $350,000 on an art monument is frivolous and extravagant.”
He added that “the city’s 50-year-old crumbling storm sewer system, residential street reconstructions, and refurbishing Kettering residences – the majority of which are over 50 years old,” should be addressed.
“The concept was that the artwork, costing $350,000, would replace a vandal fence, costing $12,000. It turns out that the holes in the art screens are too large to prevent someone from throwing objects off the bridge onto the road below, so a vandal fence is still needed over the new Schantz bridge,” he said.
Mayor Don Patterson said the funding for the project comes from a line item in the budget that already has money in it earmarked for art projects.
“One percent a year is taken out of capital improvements (and) set aside for the arts,” he said. “That money is set aside for art projects. This isn’t money that is set aside for roadway or set aside for capital improvements, etc. That money is put into a separate pool, and that money has a committee that decides where in the community art might be best suited.”
The project, including the public art installation, is expected to be finished in early 2020.