Art critics display opinion on giant blue heart

Early morning art critics displayed their opinion Tuesday by draping a huge tarp with the words “Return to Sender” over the the giant blue heart sculpture located near Grimes and Stadium Way.

The painted bronze casting by artist Jim Dine, titled Technicolar Heart, was part of a large fall outdoor art exhibit that included 11 works by Dine, as well as others by eight different artists. At the end of the exhibit, Technicolor Heart and several other works were purchased by the Washington State Arts Commission. WSAC purchases art works through a program that receives 1/2 of 1 percent of all tax dollars used to construct public buildings.

Boone Helm and Tonya Murray, manager and program coordinator (respectively) at the WSU Museum of Art, uncovered the sculpture at about 7:45 a.m. Tuesday.

Chris Bruce, director of WSU’s Museum of Art, noted that “legally the state owns the sculpture” which was purchased through the percentage-for-art fund, but added that it and other pieces are intended for “placement at WSU.”

How the state fund works

The Washington State Art Commission’s website at  offers a page explaining how the percent for art program works. It notes:

Annually the commission awards approximately $3 million in grants and contracts to artists and arts organizations, adds 250 artworks to the State Art Collection biennially.

The “Art in Public Places” program facilitates the acquisition and placement of artwork in publicly accessible places throughout Washington State. Percent-for-art funds funds are generated by new state building construction in state agencies, community colleges, universities and public schools. Local committees representing the project sites make all final artwork selection decisions, resulting in over 4,700 works of art located throughout Washington state’s public buildings.

The Art in Public Places Program, or the 1/2 of 1% for art program, was established by the state legislature in July 1974. The legislation was revised in 1983 to allow for the pooling of artwork allocations. Washington’s program is the second oldest percent for art program in the nation and is one of only four to include the public school system in their programming.

The program is funded from the state’s capital construction budget. Half of 1% of construction budgets for state-owned buildings is added for the percent for art ordinance. The 1/2 of 1% for art program for state agencies and public schools applies only to new construction. The 1/2 of 1% for art program for universities and colleges, in addition to new construction, includes renovation projects exceeding $200,000. In keeping with the terms of the legislation, 15% of each percent for art allocation is used for administrative costs.

In a typical biennium, the program receives notice of over 300 art allocations funded through the Capital Budget. To manage this number of projects, the Art in Public Places Program uses a slide registry, the Artists Resource Bank. Depending on the size of the allocation, the agency, college or school can choose to commission an artist in the Artists Resource Bank to create artwork specifically for the site. Program staff generally works with 40-50 ongoing projects. 

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