Saskatoon resident tarps over 'unsightly' public art

A Saskatoon man covered a piece of public art with a tarp, calling the compressed recycling bales "unsightly" and offensive to the neighbourhood.

Luke Coupal calls the installation at 33rd Street and Avenue C offensive to his neighbourhood

Tarped-over public art at the corner of 33rd Street and Avenue C. (Courtesy of Luke Coupal)

A Saskatoon man says the black tarp he used to cover a piece of public art at the corner of 33rd Street and Avenue C is an improvement over the original display.

Luke Coupal calls the public art installation at the corner of Avenue C North and 33rd Street West "unsightly". (CBC)
"It's literally two compressed bales of garbage," said Luke Coupal, who's lived in the neighbourhood for the past decade.

"For anyone who has seen this piece of artwork, you'll agree instantly that this is not achieving the objective of beautifying the city and improving the commercial area," he said.

After receiving no response after several complaints to his city councillor, Coupal covered the art on Sunday with a black tarp. He also tacked up a sign that read "Our tax dollars are for keeping garbage OFF the streets".

The tarp and sign were both gone within 24 hours.

Artist's intent

The artist, Keeley Haftner, had initially placed a small plaque beside the installation, explaining the pieces were a collaboration with Loraas Recycle, to bring attention to waste management. On Tuesday morning, that plaque was also gone.
'Found Compressions One and Two" sits at the corner of 33rd Street West and Avenue C North. Together, the bales weigh 875 kg, and contain plastic bags and containers compressed by Loraas Recycling. (CBC)

"I can't say [Coupal's reaction] is completely negative, although it is certainly extreme," said Haftner. She noted she worked at Loraas Recycling for six months before producing the piece. Her plaque also included a link to a blog featuring interviews with fellow recycling workers, inviting public comments.

Haftner admitted she did not receive any feedback online about the installation,

It was her first paid public project, winning just over $4,000 in a grant from the City of Saskatoon's "Placemaker" program last year.
Mike Cochrane said the temporary recycling installation needs to move out of Mayfair, to another location. (CBC)

Residents question location 

"I understand what she's trying to do," said Mike Cochrane, who owns a drugstore nearby. "She has the right to make art but at the same time this is recycling. It shouldn't have been here as long as it's been here."

"If she'd been complaining about negligent dog owners, does that mean we'd have a pile of dog feces here at the moment?" 

Both Haftner and the chair of the Visual Arts Placement Jury told CBC the piece was originally intended for the River Landing area. However, another temporary work was already in place there. Instead, city officials and the jury offered Haftner the spot at 33rd Street West and Avenue C North.

"The question of beauty has been brought up a lot in this debate, which is a really provocative and sometimes problematic conversation," she said. "I don't think all work that is made in a public setting should necessarily be made with the mandate of making a space more beautiful."

Planning and development officials at the City of Saskatoon tell CBC the exhibit's Mayfair location will be revisited at the jury's next meeting on May 5. 

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