History of Percent for the Arts

​​​Pennant, Lin Emery, 1989The City of Virginia Beach Arts and Humanities Commission passed a Resolution for the Percent for the Arts Program on June 16, 1986 following examples of arts programs in cities such as Atlanta, Charlotte, and Baltimore.

The City aimed to:
  • Encourage the development of programs affiliated with the arts and humanities
  • Provide quality art in public spaces to expand citizen's understanding of the city's culture
  • Attract businesses and professionals to the city
  • Provide a sense of value to the community while preserving its cultural history
  • Promote the talents of professional artists
  • Improve the city's quality of life and boost the local economy

Pennant, Lin Emery,  1989

The program set aside one percent (a maximum of $150,000 annually) of the total estimated cost of Buildings and Parks and Recreation to be put aside into a Capital Projects Fund.  This account would be used to commission or to purchase artwork for incorporation into any public buildings, facilities and spaces. 
The Arts and Humanities Commission administered and marketed the Percent for the Arts program. Their duties included:
  • Identifying and prioritizing projects to be funded
  • Establishing an Art/Artist Selection Committee to maintain a registry of potential contributing artists and their work and ultimately recommend art/artists to be considered 
  • Establishing a Site Advisory Committee to guarantee each site enabled full public access
  • Creating an annual report updating City Council of the program’s performance
  • Submitting a list of projects to be funded for the upcoming fiscal year
Site Establishment
In a second resolution, the City Council approved the first three sites to be included in the Percent for the Arts Program – the Central Library, the Pavilion Convention Center, and the City Hall Building.
Criteria for selecting sites included:
  • Easily accessible to the public
  • Provides a safe and suitable site for  artwork
  • Considers the facility visitors and users
  • Considers the facility’s engineering requirements that could benefit or constrain artwork
  • Considers any other criteria deemed by the City Council
The City Hall site was ultimately ruled out and replaced by the Virginia Beach Center for the Arts, however, as public officials were concerned about the compatibility of a contemporary public sculpture with the Georgian Architecture of the complex. 
Artist Selection Criteria
Criteria for selecting the art/artists for each site included:
  • Ensures that the style, nature and diversity of the proposed artwork is site-appropriate
  • Ensures that the highest quality of work is selected
  • Considers all visual forms, including permanent and portable work
  • Longevity of artwork with regards to structural soundness, theft protection, vandalism
  • Give preference to those artists residing within the city, region, or State
  • Ensures that selected art is not extreme or contrasting to community standards
The Commission received slides and background materials from over 30 artists by September 29, 1986 through the International Sculpture Center.  The Percent for the Arts Program moved forward with two successful installations at the Central Library and the Pavilion Convention Center.  Each contract was estimated to be $100,000.  Though the City set aside an additional $100,000 to award the third sculpture contract at the Center for the Arts, that project was put on hold in August 1990.




​​Light Garden, Dale Eldred, Reinstalled 2012
The Percent for the Arts program was officially deactivated in 1990, but the Virginia Beach Arts and Humanities Commission continued to request that the city reinstate the program in each successive budget year.  They formally submitted a reinstatement of the program in 1997, proposing the Old Coast Guard Station, the new Department of Social Services, a sculpture park at one of the City’s parks, and a sculpture garden at the proposed Farmer’s market.  They also wanted to consider artwork at the Municipal Center and the Amphitheater. 
Since the deactivation of the Percent for the Arts program, numerous pieces of public art have been added to the city's cultural landscape. The Office of Cultural Affairs published the Virginia Beach Public Art Guide in Fall 2010, which highlights the city’s growing public art collection. The guide was updated in 2014 and is available here.
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