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'Freewheeler: The Sequel'? City of Auburn looks to add more murals and public art to downtown
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'Freewheeler: The Sequel'? City of Auburn looks to add more murals and public art to downtown

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Auburn residents and visitors alike notice some of the art on downtown buidlings, including the “War Eagle” wall and “The Freewheeler’ mural.

Now, the city is looking to add more public art.

City planning department staff presented a policy and process proposal for future public art at an April 26 Auburn Planning Commission work session, acknowledging the proposal is just a start.

“There is a big road ahead of us for this,” acting planning director Katie Robinson said during the presentation. “We’re just kind of getting the ball rolling.”

The presentation outlined the establishment of an Auburn Public Art Commission, defined the intent for public art and the commission’s functions and outlined the process for a Public Art project. The Auburn 2020 Strategic Plan outlines the need for a board to run fine arts, a future arts director position and a fine arts program.

The new proposal calls for changes in city code to create the art commission as well as the zoning text amendments to allow murals in Urban Core, Urban Neighborhoods East, West and South, and the Corridor Redevelopment and South College Corridor zoning districts.

“We want to get it started in these areas – these are the most heavily visited areas,” city planner Stephanie Canady said. She said she hoped to get the word out to artists and property owners.

The following communities served as benchmarks during the development of the proposal: Athens, Ga.; Sanford, Fla; Huntsville, Ala.; Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Tucson, Ariz.; Beaverton, Ore.; and Blacksburg, Va.

The art commision plans to solicit proposals for public art at some point in the future. It would plan to collect proposals for specific mural sites and property owner preferences for two months, and then hold a meeting to consider them.

A review of proposals would include a display of the submitted mural example, explanation of the mural’s design submitted by the artist, an installation timeline, feedback from the property owner and a public hearing.

The Commission would then recommend approval to City Council. Once approved, a five-year art easement would be estabcished between the city, artists and property owner.

Then, the artist would have 180 days to install the art or the easement would become null and void. A project could also be cancelled if the work is stalled for more than 90 days.

A graffiti artist has dedicated a mural in Rio de Janeiro to health workers taking care of patients and fighting against coronavirus in Brazil. "One of the reasons why I decided to start this panel was that inside my own house I used to hear that this (COVID-19) was nothing, a silly thing," Campos said. He lost his grandmother and his uncle after they were both diagnosed with the virus.

Partners in helping educate the community and get the word out could include the Auburn Arts Association, the cultural arts unit of City of Auburn Parks and Recreation, downtown merchants, Historic Preservation Committee and Auburn University.

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