About those $50,000 artistic drinking fountains…

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak today felt the need to respond to Governor Pawlenty’s criticisms of a plan to install ten drinking fountains designed by artists, costing a total of $500,000.

Mayor Rybak writes “The $250,000 in funds the City of Minneapolis spends each year on public art is a tiny sum, given the important role the arts play in our community.” (FYI, the other half of the funding for the fountains came from fees for city water, a fund dedicated to water-related projects.) And besides, the money for the project is entirely separate from the city’s general fund, Rybak said, and has nothing to do with the local government aid money the city receives from the state.

I spoke to Rybak’s Communications Director, Jeremy Hanson, and he added that considering what an important source of revenue the arts are for Minneapolis, the quarter-million dollar annual investment is really a good deal. And Mary Altman, the city’s Public Arts Administrator, writes:

The City of Minneapolis annual public art budget is actually pretty small compared to most cities of our size. That is because most cities actually have much larger capital budgets–because their governments and government budgets are larger. (Most major cities manage a transit program, libraries–some even manage airports.)

I’m wondering when this conversation will go back to politicians bragging about how much money they spend on the arts, instead of having to defend it.

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