The Mesquite City Council approved the creation of a new Mesquite Public Arts Commission (MPAC) at its Tuesday, Dec. 10 meeting on a 4-1 vote. Council persons George Gault, Brian Wursten, George Rapson and Sandra Ramaker voted yes with Councilwoman Annie Black voting no.

“I’m excited by the prospect of this,” Gault said. “I’ve seen community public art in a number of other communities. I think it makes it a more exciting place to live and broadens our cultural aspirations. I’m very hopeful about the process of this.”

The MPAC will receive an initial grant of $5,000 from directional sign revenues to commence operations.

“This is not an annual ongoing commitment to fund five thousand or any other dollar amount,” Rapson said. “This is a one time only. If it ever comes back, which I know it will, there will be a reconciliation of what the first $5,000 was spent on. That’s similar to what we do with the CEAB (Community Education Advisory Board).”

I think Councilman Gault has a good view on this stuff,” Wursten said. He co-sponsored the agenda item along with Gault. “We’re trying to make art uniform or so that we don’t have random things come up on places that are city property. This group knows art and can put some things together.”

Wursten explained that people can make monetary donations through a trust set up by the city that allows for tax exemptions for charitable donations.

Even though she declared that she’s “absolutely in favor of community art,” Black said, “I am not in favor of creating any more committees, task forces, commissions, and more rules.” Black has recently spearheaded several community art projects with local volunteers.

The commission will consist of seven voting members with one person appointed by the mayor, one person appointed by each city councilmember, one person appointed by the MPAC, and one member of city staff appointed by the city manager. While most appointees will serve an initial three-year term, others will serve a two-year or one-year initial term to create a staggered approach.

According to the ordinance language, “no member of the MPAC shall hold an elected public office nor be a City Employee unless otherwise specifically allowed by this ordinance. The members of the MPAC shall consider the total cultural well-being of the City and shall be persons who have diverse interests in, and knowledge about, the various artistic disciplines. As an individual, a member of the MPAC shall not serve as an advocate for a single arts discipline or for a particular arts organization.  The Arts Commission as a whole shall serve as an advocacy body for all the arts disciplines. A member of the MPAC who serves as a board member or an officer of an arts organization shall abstain from the discussion with respect to and voting on that organization’s applications to the Arts Commission for funding.

A discussion about adding a provision to the membership criteria that says, “No member of the MPAC shall be of a first-degree consanguinity or affinity kinship relationship to a prohibited elected public office holder or city employee,” drew some discussion. Gault disagree with adding it, saying “it’s a solution looking for a problem.”

Rapson said he wouldn’t approve the commission without the added requirement. “It’s not a problem yet but it could be. We are approving funding for something. I don’t know if someone’s spouse is going to be on this board and they get to spend city money. I don’t think that’s appropriate.”

Rapson asked Gault “what’s the problem with adding it.”

“I don’t think it’s necessary. If I appointed my wife, I’d be divorced,” Gault said.

Wursten solved the dilemma by making a motion to approve the commission with the added membership criteria.