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With the help of North Port Vice Mayor Jill Luke and the city’s Art Advisory Board vice chair Laura Pucci, artist Donald Gialanella unveils his steel roseate spoonbill statue purchased with new construction contributions.

NORTH PORT — Public art is nice. But who foots the bill?

In North Port, its developers contributing a percentage of a project’s cost to a city art fund, which in turn is used to purchase sculptures, murals and visual art in public activity places such as retail shops.

The city’s most recent public artwork is a roseate spoonbill sculpture purchased for $10,000. The 10-foot steel statue is at Sumter Avenue and West Price.

But the question of filling art fund coffers popped up at Tuesday’s city commission meeting. The fund reportedly holds about $93,000. Commissioner Jill Luke shared that the developer of a large commercial project along Tamiami Trail had voiced concerns about $250,000 he owes to the city’s Public Art Contribution Program.

The city requires a percentage of construction costs … or the developer has the choice of purchasing artwork for public spaces at the project site.

Luke suggested that a city advisory board look at the funding formula, and the intent of the civic project, to examine how other communities fund public artwork, to possibly devise a more “equitable methodology” in assessing builders for public artwork. The goal, she said, is funding enhancements to “bring builders and still have public art.”

While agreeing that examining public art funding is in order, changing pricing in mid-stream penalizes builders already paying into the fund, Mayor Debbie McDowell said.

“Sometimes it’s better to leave things alone,” she said of the exiting funding formula.

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