Tolbert AACaward

The Arlington Arts Council recently named Mayor Barb Tolbert the 2019 Art Advocate of the Year. AAC board members, from left VP Monica Bretherton, and Berta Baker, art show coordinator, Vicki Johnson, demo coordinator, Sarah Arney, president, Mayor Barb Tolbert, and far right, Jean Olson, treasurer.


At the Nov. 4 Arlington City Council meeting, Arlington Arts Council named Mayor Barbara Tolbert the 2019 Art Advocate of Arlington. 

The award honors Tolbert’s support of a new strategy to fund public art in Arlington. 

In March this year, the city passed an ordinance designating 10 percent of construction sales tax for acquisition and maintenance of public art in the city. 

The ordinance includes a long-term plan and strategy for public art, including distribution in all parts of the city and continued funding, as long as the economy is strong and there is construction going on. 

The strategy includes encouraging art in neighborhoods and by private developments.

“This ordinance would not have succeeded without the support of the mayor,” said Sarah Lopez, the city’s community improvement manager, who is a member of the arts council board of directors.

The ordinance evolved out of the 2018 Cultural Congress held in Ellensburg last October.

“At the Cultural Congress, Sarah Arney and I heard about a program in Ellensburg that used a portion of construction sales tax for art projects,” Lopez said. “We told Mayor Tolbert about it and she encouraged us to propose an ordinance to council.”

The city already had a percent for the arts in place, but that depended on city capital projects, of which there were none in the past 10 years. Instead, most of Arlington’s more than 40 public art pieces were purchased by the arts council, with some help from lodging tax grants through the years.

A not-for-profit organization, AAC raised funds at an annual auction for projects with some income from other events, like the annual blues concert, supported by the city’s lodging tax grant program.

“It’s good to have a long-term strategy for art in place,” Tolbert said at the workshop meeting last Monday when council reviewed nine projects to be funded in 2020.

In its first year, the funding mechanism has garnered more than $70,000 for public art. The city made a call for proposals and received 18 proposals from around the community. The finance director, Kristin Garcia suggested spending about $40,000 of the fund this year, reserving the balance for next year and for maintenance of existing art.

The projects, which were approved by council at the Nov. 4 meeting, range from a significant granite sculpture by Verena Schwippert and a metal art bench for Airport Boulevard and an eagle sculpture for an entrance to the Gleneagle Community, to a literary community art project around dragons. Projects also include an artistic wrap for a traffic utility box in Smokey Point, another set of banners for light poles around town, a high school shop class project to create metal banners for the new Arlington Valley Road, and youth-designed art for the half-dome of the city’s skate park.

The arts council, which evolved out of a committee to find art projects to honor the city’s centennial celebration in 2003, has been honoring art advocates annually for 10 years with the Sarah M. Arney Art Advocate of Arlington award. 

Previous winners include Jean Olson and Terry Marsh for coordinating the community fish art project in 2009, Paul Nyenhuis for providing flute music at AAC events, former Mayor Margaret Larson for supporting AAC efforts whenever possible, Norma Pappas of Olympic Theater for providing the art of movies for the community, Heather Logan for leading the effort to select art for Cascade Valley Hospital, Glen Zachry of Cuz Concrete for providing cement pads for art installations, George Boulton for his ongoing support of the arts in Arlington, Jeff Nicely for coordinating the annual blues concert, Jim Kelly, Public Works Director, for including art in public works projects when possible, and, last year, Johnny Green and the volunteers who built the stage in Legion Park. 

AAC will continue working to “bring art to Arlington,” said AAC President Sarah Arney.

“We were relieved to take a break from the annual auction this year, but will continue to plan events to support our local artists and provide art opportunities for the community,” Arney said. “We are very pleased to have a more reliable source of funds for more public art around town. It shows that the city of Arlington acknowledges the value of our contributions.”


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