Whitehorse city councillors have decided it's time to revisit their policy on funding public art — just before a major new facility is built, with a hefty public art budget.

Councillors voted four to three on Monday to reopen the 16-year-old policy that requires one per cent of a public building's capital budget go towards art.

Councillor Dan Boyd first raised the issue a few weeks ago, saying the policy is unclear and questioning whether it made sense to spend money on art for buildings not necessarily accessible to the public — such as the planned $35 million city operations building.

Under the current policy, that project would see $350,000 go towards art at the new facility.

Boyd thinks an alternative policy would see those funds go into a special fund, administered by a committee. That way, any new public art could be placed anywhere in the city.

Whitehorse sculpture

Daphne Mennell's 'Whitehorse Horse' has been cited by some in the local arts community as an example of why the existing policy works - it's prominently displayed outside a city building. (Dave Croft/CBC)

"The money does not necessarily have to go into buildings," Boyd said.

"Once it's into the fund, it can go into our parks, it can go on Main Street, it can go in high-visibility places."

Talk of reviewing the policy has already created a stir, according to Al Cushing, executive director of the Yukon Arts Centre.

"The arts community has been kind of a-buzz with this issue," he said.

"When I first came up here, one of the things that attracted me to this city as I wandered around, saying, 'am I going to move here, am I not going to move here?', was the amount of public art, and the interesting public art."

Cushing says he's concerned about the timing of the review, and hopes it's not rushed.


With files from Mike Rudyk