State Spending on "Public Art" a Matter of Law

KRQE - The difficult economy has resulted in state budget cuts at multiple levels over the last several years, but KRQE News 13 has discovered an area of state spending that appears to be flying under the radar.
The size of the state’s collection of publicly-funded art pieces continues to grow, even in tough economic times.
“We’re concerned about this kind of spending on what are undoubtedly luxuries,” said Paul Gessing, president of the Rio Grande Foundation, a conservative watchdog group. State spending on public art is protected by state law. Passed in 1986, the Art in Public Places Act states that 1 percent of every dollar spent on capital improvement projects goes to purchase public art.
Since the law went into effect, state dollars have paid for the purchases of about 3,000 art pieces. “It’s the law…You don’t have the discretion to spend it however you like,” said Veronica Gonzales, secretary of the state’s Cultural Affairs Department – the department doing the buying.
Invoices obtained by KRQE News 13 show the spending continued, even as state lawmakers struggled to address a budget shortfall estimated at more than $400 million during the 2011 legislative session.
Among the purchases made while lawmakers debated ways to save money, $20,500 went to an unnamed stainless-steel sculpture; $20,500 went to another sculpture called “Brick Face Hope” for the State Land Office; $16,000 went to a sculpture called “Fish Hook”; $8,800 went for a sculpture of two dogs; $8,400 paid for another sculpture called “Tribal Rug Series. Read full story here: News New Mexico



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