Ruth Hecht, of Deerfield

Ruth Hecht, of Deerfield, will be submitting a few pieces of her pottery to the village's new public art program. The winning artwork will be displayed for a one-year rotation in village buildings. (Gregory Trotter, Chicago Tribune / April 29, 2014)

Deerfield's new rotating public arts program is off to a modest start, but village officials hope word spreads and submissions surge by the June 2 deadline.

So far, six artists have submitted a total of 16 pieces of work, including photography, sculpture, pottery, painting and mixed-media art, said David Fitzgerald, management analyst for the village of Deerfield.

"We're hoping for a lot more," said Fitzgerald, who worked with the village's fine arts commission in implementing the program. "But this being the first year, it might be a little slow to catch on."

The program invites artists living anywhere in the world to submit their work as a loan for a one-year display inside village buildings.

At the end of the year, new work will be selected and rotated in.

Like other public art programs, it's intended to beautify municipal spaces while offering exposure for artists, officials said.

It's also an example of how municipalities can support art while spending very little: Deerfield's program requires submissions be "ready to hang" and installation costs are expected to be negligible, said Andrew Lichterman, assistant to the village manager.

In neighboring Highland Park, the city allots $12,500 per year toward public arts acquisition, education and conservation, said senior planner Lee Smith. If not spent, as is sometimes the case, that money rolls into a public arts fund that accumulates for later use.

"There's a lot of different ways that communities do this," Smith said. "Some people recognize Highland Park as having a good public art collection and they come to see it."

Highland Park has more than 25 pieces of outdoor public art, which are owned by city, park district and library, said Rhoda Pierce, chair of Highland Park's cultural arts commission.

The city also partners with nonprofit group The Art Center to rotate art into City Hall, she said.

This year, the commission is working on QR, or quick response, codes to accompany each piece, Pierce said. QR codes, which can be scanned with smartphones, display information on selected topics.

Once the QR code project is complete, an art enthusiast theoretically could tour Highland Park by bike, scanning the codes for a local art history lesson.

Public art has a ripple effect for communities that support it, said Pierce, who also serves as vice chairman of the Illinois Arts Council.

"It brings tourism. It provides exposure for the artists," she said. "It's one of the reasons people move to a community – the quality of life is there."

Unlike Highland Park, Deerfield has no specific line item in its budget for public arts, Lichterman said.

But Deerfield has nonetheless found ways to support art over the years, said Jeffrey Marks, chairman of the village's fine arts commission.

Sculptures and paintings, donated to the village over the years, adorn Village Hall, as well as the park district building and library, he said.

More recent examples include the village partnering with Deerfield High School on a mural project later this summer, Marks said, while also planning a new downtown sculpture garden.

There's also the annual Deerfield Festival of Fine Arts, which brings upward of 10,000 visitors to Deerfield every summer, Marks said.