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West Linn City Council discusses revived arts commission

The commission disbanded at some point between 2010 and 2012

TIDINGS FILE PHOTO: PATRICK MALEE - The City hopes a revived arts commission will inspire more art pieces similar to the Grindstone sculpture in Willamette Park.After a multi-year hiatus, an arts commission will return to West Linn.

That much has been clear since last October, when the City Council approved the commission as part of a larger set of municipal code updates. But the makeup and exact purpose of the commission remains to be seen after the council revisited the issue at a March 6 work session — and that is by design.

"I'd kind of like to see it be organic from the group, rather than the council defining (the commission's purpose)," Mayor Russ Axelrod said. "(Artists) would probably drive circles around things we're not thinking about."

Citizen Engagement Coordinator Courtney Flynn did present a number of possible purpose statements for the commission, such as "encourage greater opportunities for a recognition of arts in the West Linn area" and "pursue funding sources, projects and programs to enhance the artistic diversity available for the citizens of West Linn."

The West Linn arts commission was first created in 1988 and in 2007 the commission began working with a "Percent for Art" program that would help fund projects. The commission disbanded at some point between 2010 and 2012, according to Flynn, and the City is no longer collecting Percent for Art funds.

City Manager Eileen Stein urged the council to, at the very least, present the list of possible purposes to prospective commission members, rather than simply handing them a blank canvas. She recalled a prior experience at a different city that proved to be instructive.

"In this particular case, it was the creation of a committee for citizen involvement," Stein said. "(The council) solicited members to the committee, composed the members and they sat at the first meeting and said, 'OK, what do you want us to do?' And a councilor said, 'That's your job to figure out.'

"That was very frustrating, actually, for the members of the committee not to have some initial direction."

The council agreed that it would be better to avoid that scenario, and several councilors had suggestions of their own for what the new committee might pursue.

"I'd like to have our entrances to the city be something that someone notices, and something that speaks for who we are," Axelrod said. "Each part of town you come in, it could have a different sort of view or look. We don't have that, and some cities do."

City Council President Brenda Perry said that Lake Oswego might be a good model for what West Linn hopes to achieve.

"When I walk around Lake Oswego and see all of their art structures around the city, I would like to know who pays for this," Perry said. "But they really make the city look nice. … I would like to see a number of smaller (art projects) around the city, particularly in the waterfront project as we start developing it."

She added that the Highway 43 corridor would be another logical spot for future art projects.

West Linn currently uses the Clackamas County Arts Alliance for assistance on projects like the recent Grindstone sculpture installation at Willamette Park.

Moving forward, the council agreed that staff should begin soliciting applications for the commission as well as feedback on how it should operate.

"Maybe we'll have them come together and have a session and talk about it — a brainstorming kind of thing," Axelrod said.

By Patrick Malee
Assistant Editor, West Linn Tidings
Pamplin Media Group
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