Artist-inspired program calls for public-art component in future Brisbane developments 

As the Peninsula continues to grow and change, many have lamented what they see as a homogenous theme replicated in nearly every development popping up.

Long-established locals fear losing the heart and soul of the communities they have been a part of, their legacies tainted by outsiders bringing in new construction and a new mindset.

This was the conundrum before Brisbane as officials recently set about navigating one of the largest developments before them. The proposed Brisbane Baylands project encompasses 660 acres along San Francisco Bay and U.S. Highway 101.

For Brisbane, a community nestled into the side of San Bruno Mountain with a population of 4,400, some residents believe such decisions can have a significant impact on the generations to come.

As the Baylands development project started coming to life on the drawing board, resident and art advocate Kevin Fryer saw the necessity to preserve and expand the community’s love for art throughout the city. Fryer, a former commissioner with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, brought this concern to the conversation by calling for an effort to devote a portion of future developments to public art.

After a subcommittee was approved last year to explore how a public-arts ordinance would benefit the community, the City Council approved an ordinance implementing the new Public Places program in October. The committee process had involved Fryer, as well as colleagues Karen Lenz, Bonnie Bologoff and Deputy City Manager Stuart Schillinger.

According to the ordinance, “The purpose of the City’s Art in Public Places Program is to promote the visual arts by requiring the inclusion of a public artwork component in certain new public and private development projects in Brisbane.”

Under the new law, developers will be required to contribute between 0.5 percent and 1 percent of certain building development costs to the Brisbane Public Art Fund as an in-lieu contribution. The specific guidelines on implementing the ordinance may take an additional year.

“The new Public Art Ordinance provides an opportunity for Brisbane to showcase its sense of place through art. I envision pieces that not only inspire our own citizens, but entice others to visit and feel good about their experience in our city,” Brisbane Mayor Pro Tem Cliff Lenz said. “With the ordinance being funded through development, art will be one of the bridges that connect our business community with our residential community.”

Meanwhile, residents and visitors to Brisbane continue to enjoy art through the musical chamber series presenting “Live at Mission Blue,” which is co-sponsored by the Friends of the Brisbane Library and City. Fryer has been the artistic director of this program for the past 10 years and continues working to bring arts to the people.

“In the past, Fryer has worked with the school district to bring students to his workshop,” Schillinger said. “He does a special presentation of one of the artists during school hours. The students watch the performance and then interact with artists from Live at Mission Blue.”

While Fryer’s first love is classical music, he recognizes how art in all forms can touch people, of all ages and backgrounds.

“When I first saw ‘Cupid’s Bow’ up on the San Francisco Embarcadero, I really didn’t like it,” Fryer said. “But it’s grown on me. Recently I walked through this piece of art and felt the power in it. And that is good art. It causes you to question, to transform a person’s way of thinking.”

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