VANSA Submission to City of Cape Town on draft Public Art Regulatory Framework

As part of the 2013 Ways to Do Public Art project staged at the City Hall in June, VANSA facilitated a workshop with public art practitioners and City officials around the draft Public Art Regulatory Framework. Below find the content of our formal submission to the City of Cape Town based on the deliberations at this workshop.

Response to City of Cape Town Public Art Regulatory Framework
Summary of input from Workshop facilitated by VANSA
City Hall June 24 2013

The following set of inputs and recommendations emanates from a workshop that formed part of the public programme associated with the 2013 Ways to do Public Art exhibition/public dialogue project. The workshop involved representatives both from the arts and culture unit of the city of Cape Town, as well as a spectrum of stakeholders and experts working in the public art field in Cape Town, as well as a representative from the eThekwini municipality. The workshop was structured around four interlinked areas of concern:
• Definitions
• Proposed Vision/principles
• Proposed Structure/management
• Technical issues

In practice, these issues were addressed in an interlinked way in participants’ responses and inputs. A number of responses were also based on the fact that participants had not necessarily engaged with the document at a level of detail, and where such inputs have been clearly addressed by the document, they have been omitted from this account. The views reflected here represent a summary and synthesis of the views of participants in the workshop.

Responses have been grouped according to particular issues raised:

1. Structure of Document
The introductory section should provide a summary overview of the structure of the document, briefly explaining the purpose of each section, and locating the framework within the broader CoCT Arts & Culture policy. The sections of the document are presently organised in a manner which makes it difficult to unpack the central issues involved and their logical inter-relationship. It is recommended that the functions and operations of the Public Art Panel be addressed in a distinct section, and that an additional section on funding and financing be included. The Definitional section should be an annexure rather than part of the present prefatory section.

2. Framing and scope of document
The emphasis in the document on the regulatory role of the City was felt to be problematic. While regulation is necessary and important, it was felt that the document should rather be framed as a Public Art Management Framework, and significantly more emphasis should be given in the document to the promotional and enabling role that the City plays around public art, alongside the regulatory role. In bringing greater emphasis to this role, the document should be more explicit about the ways in which the Arts and Culture unit is able to assist creative practitioners and organisations in obtaining both permission and practical support from the City around the realisation of creative work in public space (eg facilitating liaison with local ward councilors, cooperation from units responsible for roads, power, policing , etc).

It was also felt that the use of the term ‘public art’ might establish too narrow a scope for the framework, and that this could be substituted with the term ‘public culture’ in order to make provision for the greatest possible diversity of cultural expressions (both object-based and ephemeral/performative) that may happen in public space, and to ensure that the management framework in the document would be as comprehensive as possible.

It was also felt that the content and structure of the document somewhat privileges permanent public artwork as the central concern of the document, with significantly less attention being given to ephemeral and temporary work, initiatives and projects. The scope of the document should be clearly demarcated at the outset, with equal attention being given to each aspect.

Perhaps most importantly, the document does not clarify a planning mechanism for the adoption of a clear strategy by the CoCT for public art. Alongside this regulatory/management framework there would need to be a clear strategy document that outlines a framework for action in relation to the City’s mandates in this area over a 3-5 year period, spelling out objectives, priorities, key interventions and subject to ongoing review. As it stands, the document outlines a framework for regulating and managing public art, but does not properly articulate a relationship between this document and a strategy or plan of action.

3. Geographic Scope
The document should make more explicit the fact that the framework applies to the entire municipal area of the City of Cape Town; references to “the City” may be misconstrued as referring to the City Bowl area, as it is often understood in popular parlance.

4. Relationship with by-laws
The document should make more explicit the by-laws that are relevant to the Framework, and their implications. The document should make explicit provision for the regular review and modification of relevant by-laws (see also point 5 below).

In their present form, the by-laws establish what is arguably a cumbersome framework for the regulation of particularly graffiti, and the response from many arts stakeholders within the arts community has been negative. The particular emphasis on containing unwanted graffiti and tagging within these by-laws is one that could be addressed through general laws relating to damage to property. The revision of these by-laws should be given substantial priority in ways that would relax or remove the requirements around permission from the City in the case of works that are realised on privately owned walls. In their present form they place the City in the difficult position of effectively controlling/regulating the visual landscape of the City at a micro-level. There are separate provisions for, for example, the control of advertising in public space, and taken together with laws governing damage to private property, these should be largely sufficient for the purposes of the City’s regulatory role in this area.

5. Public Art Panel
There were a number of inputs relating to the terms of reference, composition and operations of the proposed public art panel:
• The panel should have a wider remit than the approval of permanent public artworks and should have the following additional responsibilities:
       o Should advise the City on a proactive overall strategy for public art and culture and play an oversight role over the implementation of this strategy (the strategy itself could be independently commissioned under the auspices/oversight of the PAP)
       o Should be involved in the ongoing review of processes and procedures for both permanent and temporary work, though only play an active role in decision-making with regard to permanent work
       o Should have a mandate to review and propose changes to by-laws impacting on art and culture in public spaces in the CoCT
• It was felt that the minutes of meetings should be publicly accessible
• There should be provision for more substantial representation of the general public on the panel – was felt to be weighed down by academics and art specialists, with consultation with for example ward councillors presented as an ‘after the fact’ process; provision should be made for organised civil society/non-governmental entities (both arts and non-arts) to also have representation on the panel.

6. Funding and financing
The document makes no reference to how the City’s ambitions in this area would be financed and funded. The document should have a section that clearly articulates the approach to this issue on the part of the City.

7. Alteration, Re-location, Removal or De-accessioning
The section of the document addressing this issue needs to explicitly note that any action in this area would need to be legally sound in terms of the Moral Rights provisions contained in the Copyright Act, and the City should obtain legal advice on how this issue should be addressed in practice, as the agreements (where they exist) covering many of the existing public artworks in the city may not have addressed this question clearly. Moving forward, this question would in future also needs to be very clearly addressed in any commissioning or bequest agreements that the City may enter into with artists, commissioning agencies or the owners of existing work.

8. General recommendations regarding strategy
The workshop involved substantial discussion around the need for a plan or strategy for taking an agenda around public art forward. The development of a public art strategy/plan for the City will involve substantial engagement with counterparts in other departments, and the ability of the Arts and Culture unit to leverage resources for public art from other departments and units with significant budgets will be crucial to achieving its ambitions in this area. This will involve needing to secure significant buy-in from this internal audience at an early moment, and developing concrete initiatives in partnership with them in ways that would exemplify the proposed Framework in action.

The initial engagement of the City in this area during the last number of years has emphasised regulation and control rather than promotion, an emphasis which is now quite firmly and unhappily lodged in the minds of many in the Cape Town creative community, and the proposed PARF in its current form inadvertently participates in and contributes to this perception. A forward-looking strategy and plan which addresses itself in significant ways to the promotion and enabling of the arts and cultural expressions in public spaces, and particularly in public spaces outside of the City Bowl, should be prioritized and effectively and coherently communicated to both the arts community and the general public.

In order to make the framework and processes as accessible as possible, a communication strategy (with a budget) is needed in order to develop the following kinds of content:
• An accessible “how to” series of documents for different kinds of users/applicants (eg distinguishing between for example, individual artists, organisations and festivals)
• Application forms relating to the various permitting procedures which would include a summary of those procedures, expected turnaround times on responses and so on. These should also operate as an addenda to the PARF/PAMF.

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