$50,000 in art suggested for Athens jail

 

ATHENS, Ga. -- Advisers are recommending that the Athens-Clarke Commission spend $50,000 on public art when the Clarke County Jail is expanded next year.

“Our research confirmed to us that jails, justice and detention centers across the country are incorporating art into their buildings or programs to visually communicate that they are community centers housing community members,” Athens Cultural Affairs Commission Chairwoman Marilyn Wolf-Ragatz wrote in a letter to commissioners.

“Adding an art element to this civic building reflects a respect this community has for the many citizens who pass through there daily. Art has also been demonstrated to have a calming and therapeutic effect on family and visitors who find themselves in an otherwise stressful and intimidating environment. We believe and feel strongly that art can communicate in a positive way that Athens cares about all of its citizens and can help the public understand the jail’s stated commitment to sensitive, fair and courteous service while respecting human dignity.”

Commissioners did not discuss the ACCA’s recommendation at an agenda-setting meeting Thursday night but left it on the agenda for discussion prior to Jan. 3 vote.

If approved, the artwork should be installed in a public area and be an integral part of the building, Wolf-Ragatz said. The ACCA will recommend a design and site once the commission approves the $50,000 amount, she said.

A law the commission passed in 2010 required it to spend at least 1 percent of new public buildings’ construction budgets on art unless they deemed the building unsuitable for public art. Commissioners approved a $76 million budget and preliminary plans for the jail in November without an earmark for public art after realizing they would have to spend nothing or at least $520,000 on art at the jail. They voted earlier this month to change the law for sales tax-funded projects so they could spend less than 1 percent.

The project, approved by voters as part of a 2010 sales tax referendum, will double the size of the outdated and overcrowded jail to 790 beds.

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