DOWNEY - The Downey City Council has made it easier for an art gallery or museum to open downtown with financial help from the city.On a 4-1 vote Tuesday, council members revised the municipal code to allow the city to use public art funds on facility costs, such as rent. The vote potentially allows a local arts organization, most notably Downey Art Vibe, to open a gallery downtown with subsidized rent from the city. Mayor Pro Tem David Gafin cast the dissenting vote, arguing the money should be used for permanent pieces of art. "We're doing the citizens a disserve if the art is not permanent," Gafin said. "I'm not against Downey Art Vibe or the Downey Museum of Art, but this is not the pot of money we should be using. We should support them but not from this pot." Other council members disagreed. "With all due respect to the mayor pro tem, times are changing," said Councilman Fernando Vasquez. "This is a great step in the right direction." Councilman Luis Marquez said the local arts community has proven itself capable of hosting quality events. By agreeing to finance a downtown art venue, "it puts the emphasis that we are investing our funds in the arts," he said. The public art fund is financed by local developers who pay a fee (equal to 1 percent of the building valuation) as part of their building permit. The city can use the money only for public art. Any art venue the city chooses to support financially must be open to the public and feature an "emphasis" on art from Downey-based artists, according to a staff report. The art gallery must be located within the downtown boundaries and the City Council is allowed to authorize art-related programming inside the venue. The art gallery is allowed to charge an entrance fee to recoup operating costs.
********** Published: March 15, 2012 - Volume 10 - Issue 48