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River Falls approved a policy last week that allows some walls inside City Hall to be used for exhibiting artwork. 
<i>Stock photo</i>
River Falls approved a policy last week that allows some walls inside City Hall to be used for exhibiting artwork. <i>Stock photo</i>

City Hall approves public-art displays

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news River Falls, 54022

River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

After having the task on its wish list for years, the City Council Feb. 26 approved a policy to display public art inside City Hall as well as a $2,500 expense for five "secure exhibit-hanging systems."

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The council passed the item without discussion, but a memorandum from the city's Communications Coordinator Dawn Wills and Management Analyst Caitlin Stene explains the policy evolution and terms.

Display details

A team of city staffers worked together to develop the policy, which Assistant City Administrator Julie Bergstrom says is a slightly modified version of the policy used by the River Falls Public Library for the past "several years."

The council's memo says the policy provides a "unified method for requesting and selecting displays" as well as 1) governing principles, 2) an exhibit selection committee, 3) submitters' procedure, and 4) an appeals process.

Bergstrom clarified that members of the exhibit-selection committee have not been selected yet.

The policy stipulates that the committee will include the communications coordinator, who for the city is Dawn Wills; the library's event coordinator, Jera Terreng; one additional (city) staff member and a citizen involved in community arts.

The criteria clarifies that since the artwork will be displayed in a public setting, "no political, nude or religious exhibits will be considered or accepted."

It also says that great care will be taken handling the art, but the city generally does not plan to provide special insurance for the displays.

Five primary and five secondary spaces within City Hall have been designated for hanging artwork.

    1) Lower-level training room, north wall

    2) Lower-level training room, south wall

    3) Main-level stairway hall, north wall

    4) Main-level lobby, north wall

    5) Main-level entryway overhead wall

.

The secondary spots include two more in the lower level, one by the Council Chamber and one near the bathrooms, as well as three on the main level -- two near the stairway and another on the western wall.

The policy says if the five primary spots fill quickly, the city will consider buying more art-hanging systems and using the other five spots.

The art policy gives a statement of principles that says River Falls will give equal opportunity for groups and individuals to use the public space. The city wants displays that are informative, enlightening, artistic, historical, natural or of general interest, and two-dimensional items are preferred.

The city reserves the right to review and reject displays; it assumes no risk or liability in hanging or displaying the artwork. Pieces must arrive ready to hang with minimal help from city staff and at least 24 hours before the exhibit opens.

Educational, cultural, civic and governmental groups may reserve the exhibit spaces but may not charge admission for the event.

The display spaces are for exhibits of a "temporary nature" and will hang for periods of three-to-six months.

The policy says pieces must be removed at the designated time and that anything left at City Hall longer than 30 days will be considered a donated gift. River Falls may also sell or distribute donated items.

The city will not promote or facilitate sales of any exhibit items.

The policy says City Hall does not intend to censor or remove an exhibit because someone disagrees with its content. Anyone who'd like to dispute a display may submit a "request for reconsideration" form explaining their grievance.

Bergstrom said River Falls is still finalizing details of the policy but hopes to implement it by May or June. Among other things, River Falls needs time to order, receive and install the hanging hardware.

She said the city will include more information about the policy in its next newsletter, the spring edition. She also said that later this spring -- when the policy is implemented -- Wills will likely be the primary point of contact via email: dwills@rfcity.org.

Asked to comment on what prompted the development of a policy, Bergstrom said, "City employees have been contacted by members of the visual arts community about placing art in the City Hall building."

That same sentiment was reiterated by many citizens since before crews finished building City Hall in 2009 -- its walls provide a perfect place for public-art displays.

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