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Sound Bites: Coun. Gondek on Calgary public art and the perception of bureaucracy

Yesterday, the city’s Community and Protective Services committee debated recommendations that would lead to the resumption of Calgary’s much-maligned public art program.

During debate, Ward 3 councillor Jyoti Gondek summed up her perspective on public art, through the lens of her constituents.

We thought it would be worth sharing:

From the Wednesday, June 6, 2018 CPS meeting – Coun. Jyoti Gondek

Transcribed below:

“When we talk about the concept of public art from the viewpoint of my residents, who I’m here to represent – they don’t hate public art as a concept.

What they don’t like is the way it rolls out at being extremely bureaucratic and they want it done in a way that respect and engages the public – that’s why it’s public art.

Travelling Light is a perfect example of something that we cannot engage with in my community. You’re on a skinny little sidewalk, blasting past it on a bridge. And it has absolutely no contextual meaning for the residents of Ward 3.

So, if it was located somewhere else and you could, for example, snap a selfie, blue ring behind you and a beautiful scene of some sort – the river, the cityscape – whatever it happens to be, that would be absolutely a triumph of engaging with art.

But that’s not what it is. The context is missing. And the context is missing because of its location and because of the bureaucracy of tying it to infrastructure, and because really I don’t think we engage the people anywhere near where that art installation was put up.

So, that’s kind of a contextual issue.

I want to make sure that moving forward, if we move forward with these amendments, that we also consider how every ward will be considered equitably in terms of getting the art that it needs and that it deserves, and where it needs to go.

Because the people who live there will tell you where they go and where they will engage with it. That is absolutely critical.

And I’m going to finish off with something that councillor Woolley raised – he talked about the value of art. And then some of our speakers talked about the value that art represents. It’s that balance of with the value is and what the values are that art represents that becomes tricky.

We also had an issue with the review process that stems from the call for more of the vision from our public art program. And I took that very seriously as a councillor and how would I answer that question.

Public art is the narrative of our city and its people. And it’s a reflection of who we were at that particular point in time. It’s history. You’re telling a story of the people in the city. And I thought of it further and I thought it should be one of the ways we document the fate of our times.”

( a few more words, then recording ends)