State should continue to buy artwork

Love them or hate them, the pieces of art in the new Marshal Student Center brighten up the blank white walls. However, there are some who do not want Florida to finance art in new buildings. If Florida legislators pass a new bill, the state will no longer buy art for new public buildings for two years, suspending the 1979 Art in State Public Buildings Program.

The state of Florida has purchased more than 1,500 pieces of artwork over the past 30 years, spending a total of $11.5 million, according to the Associated Press. The bill is intended to cut unnecessary costs, but halting art purchases will save little money. Under the current policy no more than one-half of one percent of a building’s cost up to $100,000 can be spent on artwork.

New public buildings will be visually unappealing, and according to the AP, the state will save only about $400,000 annually — an inconsequential amount considering the proposed budget for 2009-2010 is more than $66 billion, according to

Proponents of the bill say even this small amount of spending is too much. State senator Ronda Storms, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, told the Tampa Tribune she fails to see the necessity of the 100 pieces of art on display at USF’s Tampa and St. Petersburg campuses.

“While I certainly believe art and culture provide wonderful benefits to Florida,” she said, “I do not believe that at this time most Floridians want to continue this luxury when people are losing their jobs and seniors and children are losing health services.”

The current economy calls for serious reforms to help the rising numbers of unemployed and uninsured, but suspending the art program is an empty gesture and a detriment to the artistic community. Less difficult than sales to private collectors and museums, state purchases are an important source of revenue for artists, especially local artists.

Sculptor Candace Knapp, secretary of the Greater Brandon Arts Council, said to the Tribune, “I can’t believe this is even being proposed. A lot of tourists come here just because of our beautiful art. Why would you want to cut that out?”

Knapp and others in the art community are encouraging Floridians to protest the bill.

The bill will end state spending, but many counties have their own art programs. New buildings may still be artless, however, as the Hillsborough ordinance has only installed 30 pieces of art in the past 20 years, according to the Tribune.

It is not worth saving a tiny fraction of the budget to construct unattractive buildings and cut funding for the arts.