Arts Alliance public art plan gets full approval

LAKE PLACID — The Lake Placid Arts Alliance is planning to inventory and assess the condition of public art pieces throughout the area.

The North Elba Town Council voted Sept. 14 to approve the alliance’s public art master plan. The Lake Placid Village Board of Trustees already voted to approve the plan earlier this year.

The plan — drafted as part of the Lake Placid/North Elba Community Development Commission — focuses on the inventory, maintenance, and placement of art pieces around Lake Placid.

“We’re sort of tasked with figuring out where public art fits in and how we manage that,” LPAA Chair Lori Fitzgerald said Tuesday, Sept. 21.

First, the alliance hopes to assemble an inventory map that accounts for existing art pieces, where they are located, if they should be relocated, and if they need maintenance. Fitzgerald said many of the existing art pieces in the community need to be restored. The art plan also outlines possible “art zones,” or areas of town that could feature a particular style of art. These zones wouldn’t be limited to popular tourist spots with Olympic sculptures, but would also encompass year-round residential areas.

When it comes to getting new community art projects off the ground, Fitzgerald says the alliance will likely take two approaches: one would be if an individual artist approaches the alliance to pitch a project idea. The alliance would then discuss the project together before making a recommendation to the town and village boards. Alternatively, the alliance could come together to create their own art project, then put out requests for community artists to submit proposals on how they would execute the project. Then, the alliance would form a subcommittee, including one voting Arts Alliance member and community members, which would then select the artist and proposal to bring before the appropriate entity — most likely town and village boards — along with the community through a public forum.

The plan also encourages property owners and developers to consider allocating funds or space on their property for art integration. Fitzgerald says she doesn’t think the alliance can require that from developers, but they want to look at their options.

Fitzgerald said the public art master plan has been in the works since 2011, when the original comprehensive plan for the alliance was created by the Community Development Commission. Now that the art plan is approved, Fitzgerald said alliance members are ready to get started on more creative aspects of the plan.

At their Oct. 12 meeting, Fitzgerald said the alliance will consider the issue of funding these projects, since there isn’t a budget for the art plan currently. She also said people are coming to the meeting prepared to discuss their ideas for what the alliance’s first project should be. Lake Placid Arts Alliance meetings are open to the community, and Fitzgerald says the alliance has many ad hoc members who attend meetings. Once the alliance begins commissioning community artists for projects, the recommending subcommittee will include one alliance member and several community members.

The alliance has a few ideas for projects, though there is no set timeline or guaranteed approval for them. Fitzgerald discussed building a broader “legacy park” around the “Miracle on Ice” monument, or creating a fence of environmental art on the Mirror Lake beach if the current temporary fence structure gets replaced with a permanent one.

Since their official formation last year, Fitzgerald said the LPAA’s biggest challenge has been bringing art to the forefront of not just the community’s mind, but also the minds of community leaders.

“They don’t fully understand why it’s important … so we have to work to make sure it becomes a regular part of the conversation so opportunities don’t get missed,” she said.

For this reason, the alliance has focused almost solely on creating and gaining approval for the public art master plan since their inception, which Fitzgerald counts as a success for the alliance.

Members of the North Elba board voted in favor of the master plan in their Sept. 14 meeting with the stipulation that each project by the alliance should appear before the board for individual approval.

At first, Councilman Derek Doty said he felt uncomfortable with the proposal because he thought the plan was too broad and he wasn’t sure how the LPAA coincided with the North Elba Town Council. However, Fitzgerald said the LPAA must answer to the town and village boards since the alliance is part of the Community Development Commission. She also added that the alliance would present each individual project to the board on a case-by-case basis. Doty then agreed the project was a “worthwhile mission.”

With the last word before the unanimous vote, Councilwoman Emily Politi said that “at the very least, (the plan) puts art in the forefront of people’s minds,” a sentiment Fitzgerald echoed on Sept. 21.