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Calgary public art policy recommendations to pave the way for lifting of program suspension

About us, but without us.

That was one way the Calgary arts community described how the city has handled the Corporate Public Art Policy, during submissions at the Community and Protective Services committee meeting Wednesday.

One by one, members of Calgary’s arts community stood before council, pleading for a better way to assess and implement public art, many saying their voice hadn’t been included in any sort of consultation.

The recommendations from administration come after the city’s public art program was suspended last September following public controversy over the Bowfort Towers public art project.

“The talent is here in the city – the creative community is extraordinary. The report talks about local artists and what we need to do for them, and yet we don’t engage them in the process of review,” Tristan, artist-in-residence in East Inglewood, told committee members.

Coun. Evan Woolley submitted a revised set of recommendations for the committee to consider, pushing for greater involvement of the local arts community and transparency in the process.

Recommendations put forth in Wednesday’s public art debate at Calgary’s Community and Protective Services committee meeting.

“I’m sad to add another four months to the suspension of the program, but I’d rather get it done right,” said Woolley.

Both Couns. Jeromy Farkas and Sean Chu said the point was being lost in the debate, and that it wasn’t a question of communication with artists, but rather communication and the involvement of the public at large.

“I would say that the frustration and the controversy was not a lack of information to the public, but that rightly or wrongly we were perceived to have wasted money,” Farkas said.

For his part, Coun. Chu submitted a motion to get public vote on final versions of public art projects. It was stated earlier in the meeting by administration that going through this process would be onerous and costly. The motion was defeated.

Farkas also suggested the public art funding should be based on current economic conditions – a measure challenged by colleagues who said their job already is to make sound financial decisions at any point in time. That amendment was also defeated.

Council members also debated the inclusion of national and international artists, again with a motion to focus on awarding public art to local artists.

The recommendations were approved unanimously.