- Dee Dee Johnson
- Ellyn Parker, former city public art coordinator, stands in front of the Maggie Walker statue in Jackson Ward.
Richmond’s public art coordinator, Ellyn Parker, quietly left her job last month. She is now working as an exhibition manager at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.
The city administration just posted a job ad for a project management analyst - public art coordinator and the topic is scheduled for the Public Art Commission meeting Thursday. The city is legally required to fill the budgeted position. Pay ranges from $38,643 to $84,193 annually.
Parker’s departure July 6 comes after City Council unanimously voted to gut the public art fund of $2.15 million in April to fund amendments to the mayor’s capital budget, leaving $1 million in the one percent for the arts fund.
This public art fund consisted of earmarked money after the creation of the new city jail in 2011. Out of town consultants had been paid $150,000 to decide how to spend it with the creation of a public art master plan.
Parker says switching jobs was positive after 15 years in government.
"[Lewis Ginter] is expanding. It was a creative opportunity for me that combines my love of art with a really beautiful place,” she says. “I’m super excited to tap into the creativity there.”
Parker admits she was disappointed that the city funding for the arts was cut, but is pleased that she will now be able to advocate for the arts more directly. She says she was never given an answer from the city about how the money would be replaced. She declined to provide advice for any new hire in the position.
At the time the public art fund money was moved, Mayor Levar Stoney tweeted that he “was not pleased with City Council’s proposed amendments and will work to restore these dollars as soon as possible.” Style has contacted his office and the public art commission but hasn’t received a response.
One of Parker’s biggest projects while working as public art coordinator was the Maggie Walker statue in Jackson Ward. Bill Martin, director of the Valentine museum, says he heard from Parker as she was leaving her former position.
“She was afraid some records would be lost so on her last day, she emptied out her file cabinets and brought stuff over here,” Martin says. He adds that his museum was interested in documents related to how the Maggie Walker statue happened.
After making the list last year and in 2015, Richmond was not in the top 20 cities on Southern Methodist University’s ranking of most vibrant arts communities in America, which correlates primarily to funding changes.