Santa Rosa has won a federal arts grant to draw up a plan to help the city become a regional arts destination.

The $50,000 award from the National Endowment for the Arts was one of 80 "Our Town" grants totaling $5 million.

The city plans to use the money to develop a public art master plan to guide public arts projects in the city. The project will be done in conjunction with the Sonoma County Museum and other local arts and business groups.

"The city wants to continue our public art offerings, we don't have much money, but we want to hear from people about what's most important to them," said Tara Matheny-Schuster, Santa Rosa arts coordinator.

The plan is meant to build on and help focus the city's current public art programs. These include a downtown arts district, which supports sculptures, hand-painted benches and special events, and other artwork funded through 1 percent fee on private developments.

The city also has a business plan outlining how to fund district goals, but Matheny-Schuster admits the economy has put a damper on many of those plans, leaving the district largely in "maintenance mode."

The museum is involved in part because it plans to have exhibit space in the proposed Museum on the Square project, which would turn the former AT&T building downtown into a mixed-use tower.

The master plan could include ideas for public spaces in Old Courthouse Square that complement the museum's mission, such as space for outdoor lectures, workshops, performances, and other educational programs, Matheny-Schuster said.

Programs to combat graffiti, such as the installation of murals, are also a possibility, she said.

It's the first time the city has won the grant, which requires an equal local match. The city is paying its match with $10,000 from the 1-percent development fee for artworks, which she said is "not ideal" but allowed under the ordinance. The remaining $40,000 will come from in-kind contributions such as staff time and donated space for community meetings, Matheny-Schuster said.

A consultant will be hired to conduct the public outreach and draw up the plan, work that should take about a year, she said.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or