Don’t balance budget by raiding art collection, artists urge

  • Tue Mar 13th, 2012 8:08pm
  • News

By Theresa Goffredo Herald Writer

A proposal to sell off some of the state’s art collection to balance the budget isn’t getting rave reviews among artists or lawmakers.

But the state’s pressing need for money coupled with a special session means critics can’t bury the idea yet.

During special session, every bill is back up for a hearing, even those that never received a hearing in the regular session.

That includes Senate Bill 6597.

The bill calls for the state of Washington to start selling off its public art collection — including some masterpieces — and use the money to help low-income students go to college.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent. Her idea is to auction off works from the state art collection every two years. The bill directs the Washington State Arts Commission to choose among the more than 4,000 pieces in the collection to sell, with a goal of raising a minimum of $5 million each time.

One of the works would include “Bloom,” a large piece made of eco resin, LED lights and stainless steel that was installed in 2009 at Everett Community College.

Under the bill, 60 percent of the funds would go to State Need Grant program, and 40 percent would be directed back to the arts commission to conserve, repair and acquire art.

State Need Grants help the state’s lowest-income undergraduate students pursue degrees, refine skills and retrain for new careers.

When it was first introduced in the regular legislative session, Senate Bill 6597 received some heat from the arts community, including Camano Island artist Jack Archibald, whose artwork graces many public buildings including Everett Station.

Archibald estimated that half of the artwork in the state collection are made to be part of the building or structure. He compared taking away public art from public buildings with the “Vatican selling off its statues and peeling off the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.”

Kris Tucker, the commission’s executive director, voiced several concerns about the bill, including the upfront cost to the state to manage and initiate the auctions without any guarantee the sales would generate the kind of money Keiser is talking about.

Tucker said: “We are not in the business of selling artwork.”

Theresa Goffredo: 425-339-3424;