Mere months after Margaret Pageler's attempt to forestall debate on the issue, the new city council will look into expanding Seattle's percent for art program. Originally passed in 1973, the One Percent for Arts ordinance requires that one percent of the construction budget of any large city project be devoted to public art. Council Member Nick Licata proposes to raise that amount to two percent, bringing our program in line with other cities around the country who copied our idea at higher levels of funding. In its basic form this proposal looks to pass; what's uncertain are other proposed reforms of the program.

Public-private partnerships and projects built by the city outside city limits are currently exempt from the ordinance, a loophole that needs to be closed. Furthermore, Allied Arts of Seattle has proposed, and Licata seems to support, broadening the ways in which this money can be spent. Currently, it mostly buys public sculpture and art for the buildings concerned. Broader uses of the money could include performing, media, and literary arts, off-site works, touring performances, and artist residencies. Allowing more creative uses for this big chunk of arts funding-uses beyond plunking down sculptures on plazas-could reenergize the program, and integrate it more thoroughly with Seattle's wider arts community.

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It's empire-building season at the edges of downtown, judging from the slew of new development planned for the Convention Center area and the Denny Regrade. Retail developers working in Seattle have belatedly realized that a lively streetfront requires a variety of façade treatments, resulting in mild excesses like the five or six different takes on the same style that add up to the front of Pacific Place mall, and the jumble of different surfaces that now advertise the multiple tenants of the former Nordstrom building. But the new business developments are a different story. Leave out, for now, the street-spanning multi-block bulk of the Convention Center, which seems to feature a reasonable amount of architectural variety in its elements. Instead, look at the development around it, where a look-alike tower is planned across the street from Two Union Square, the most distinctive of the skyscrapers built during the last real estate boom. A little to the north, the ugly pair of silver-sheathed towers of Metropolitan Plaza, along I-5 (better known as the Zippo buildings), will be joined by a third Zippo to the west. Then we get to the newish Fred Hutchinson complex, which looks like it wants to be a suburban office campus. To the south, the planned string of low buildings around the former Pacific Medical tower on Beacon Hill ape and thereby reduce the stand-alone stunningness of that tower. The architects and developers responsible for these unvariegated multi-block campuses seem like wannabe builders of new Rockefeller Centers, but they're more likely to make downtown Seattle resemble a high-rise version of the Microsoft campus.

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Larry Rinder, the well-regarded Bay Area curator, has been tapped for the plum job of curator of contemporary art at New York's Whitney Museum of American Art. And why does this interest us, you ask? Because Rinder, practically alone among major New York curators, is somewhat familiar with current Seattle artists. He was here recently while working as one of six regional guest curators for this spring's Whitney Biennial, when he visited the studios of Josiah McElheny, Dan Webb, Joe Park, Ken Kelly, and Mark Takamichi Miller. He ultimately tapped only McElheny for the Biennial, but that's a start, considering that-as I've pointed out before-no Seattle artist other than Gary Hill has been in a Biennial for the last two decades.

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