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Publicly commissioned art overflows with value

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After the Ovation 309 building opened with the new art, Hovde noted the overwhelmingly positive response of his tenants and how much they love witnessing new art as they enter Ovation 309. And “it’s helped me rent out my buildings quicker,” Hovde says.

For this latest project at 316 W. Washington Ave., CODAworx helped Hovde find a perfect match in Jonathan Brown and his Modern Mosaics team.

Brown founded Modern Mosaics in 1991. The company has many large-scale museum quality installations in health care facilities, corporate structures, hospitality, outdoor environments, and numerous private collections.

“Here we had a building built in the early 70s in the Brutalism style, which is unappealing,” Hovde explains. “We are totally retrofitting the building, and the signature will become the significant piece of art in the middle that will make that building stand out amongst all the buildings downtown. So what was once probably the most non-descript, borderline ugly building will become one of the most well-known, talked-about buildings in Madison after the art is fully installed.”

Value of art for everyone

It will be hard to miss the gigantic LED waterfall mural at 316 W. Washington Ave. once it’s complete, and that’s the point.

This art is for everybody to enjoy, and its benefits should extend well beyond the artist and the commissioners.

Workers prepare the facade of the 316. W. Washington Ave. building for the mural installation. Photo © Ting-Li Lin/Snowforest

“Art can revitalize the downtown, and it can drive tourism,” notes Anderson. “This 316 W. Wash building used to be an outdated, unattractive building downtown, and now it is going to be a beautiful aesthetic addition to the Isthmus. The installation of the art also brought jobs to Madison because out of the 11 businesses that collaborated with Jonathan’s team, six were local to Madison.”

The original budget for what became the waterfall mural was $100,000, and the budget has since expanded to over $500,000, notes Anderson. Only a portion of that fee goes to the artist. The artist allocates the rest to materials, lighting, shipping, installation, and outsourcing to various contractors.

According to Anderson, many cities across the United States have adopted a “Percent for Art” program where 1–2% of aboveground public development budgets and sometimes 1–2% of private development budgets are allocated for art.

“This is an initiative to both beautify and create a sense of place with unique landmarks and spaces for the community,” explains Anderson. “Madison is behind the times and does not have a Percent for Art program, so it is up to private developers like Hovde Properties to uphold the value of commissioned art and make it a priority in development. Commissioned art has the power to set the tone for a community of tenants and communicate an aesthetic to the greater public.”

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