Public art policy suspended by Calgary city council pending review
Move comes in the wake of controversy around Bowfort Towers at the western entrance to the city
Calgary city council voted unanimously Wednesday to suspend putting out any new requests for public art while its policy is reviewed.
The decision comes in the wake of public outrage around Bowfort Towers, a new public art installation on the city's western entrance.
Council now wants to look at how projects are selected and how art projects are communicated to council and the public.
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The current public art policy sees one per cent of the capital budget for every infrastructure project dedicated to public art.
With the Bowfort interchange costing $71.7 million, the towers project and the yet-to-be-completed drumlins — which are oval earth formations left behind by glaciers — came in under budget at $500,000.
Councillor Sean Chu said a review of the policy is justified.
He says Calgarians are fed up with the current process where no one knows what designs are being selected before things are built.
"If they are the purchaser of the art, then they should not only have a better say on how much we spend on art but also what art they would like to see in their community," he said.
Found on the south side of the newly opened Bowfort interchange on Highway 1, the latest piece of Calgary public art was designed by Del Geist, who is based in New York, N.Y.
And it's not the first public art installation in the city to court controversy.
In October 2013, an installation called Travelling Light — better known to some Calgarians as the Giant Blue Ring — drew the ire of many, including Mayor Naheed Nenshi, when it was erected on the 96th Avenue N.E. bridge near Deerfoot Trail at cost of $470,000.
"Now I don't like it, but sometimes art is divisive," Nenshi said at the time.
The mayor says the current policy does work for most projects — but when it doesn't, it fails spectacularly.
He says the review will result in improvements.
"I hope that our tweak of the policy helps us fix the stuff we get right, but also prevents us from doing stuff wrong," said Nenshi.
While new projects are being put on hold, the suspension does not affect public art projects which have already been approved.
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