This is a blight on city hall

Calgary Sun - - COMMENT -

Beauty, they say, is in the eye of the be­holder. The same could very much be said for art. One per­son’s art is an­other’s eye­sore. Un­less it ap­pears to be so hideous, ill-placed and of highly ques­tion­able mo­ti­va­tion to so many.

Oh, and we for­got, very ex­pen­sive at a time when all friv­o­lous spend­ing should ab­so­lutely be reined in. Then it’s gloves off and a dog­pile en­sues. Bow­fort Tow­ers sounds rather posh and ex­clu­sive but the shine wears off in a hurry when you get past the name and ac­tu­ally take a look at it — large rusty gird­ers with sup­ports hold­ing up flat rocks.

Use all the fancy, airy fairy de­scrip­tors you want — that’s what most peo­ple see.

Eas­ily mis­taken for con­struc­tion de­bris by the cul­tur­ally un­aware, or in this case damn near ev­ery com­men­ta­tor with a key­board, the art in­stal­la­tion on the west end of the city has be­come a light­ning rod for all that is wrong with lo­cal gov­ern­ment spend­ing.

Jus­ti­fied at its un­veil­ing as art­work aligned with Black­foot sym­bol­ism, it quickly be­came ap­par­ent lo­cal In­dige­nous peo­ple had no in­volve­ment in the $500,000 struc­ture. At least, none that can be found. Some peo­ple even ques­tioned if Bow­fort Tow­ers is in­tended to rep­re­sent tra­di­tional In­dige­nous burial plat­forms, as it ap­pears, which would be highly in­ap­pro­pri­ate, and cer­tainly at an en­trance to any city.

New York artist Del Geist, who de­signed Bow­fort Tow­ers with Pa­tri­cia Leighton, strongly de­nies his piece mim­ics burial scaf­fold­ing, which fur­ther an­gered at least one In­dige­nous critic who didn’t ap­pre­ci­ate be­ing told how he should in­ter­pret the art­work.

Of course, those coun­cil­lors on the fis­cally re­spon­si­ble end of the spec­trum are calling for changes to the city’s public art pol­icy, as they should and, in some cases, have al­ready.

The mayor, oddly, has re­fused to weigh in at all, cit­ing the in­com­plete project.

But it goes without say­ing that some­one has to be ac­count­able for this mess, con­sid­ered an out­rage by so many Cal­gar­i­ans and our In­dige­nous neigh­bours.

Cal­gar­i­ans need to have some trust that the public purse is be­ing well guarded, and not opened willy nilly for du­bi­ous projects lack­ing all ac­count­abil­ity and com­mon sense.

It’s bad enough that this coun­cil has been so deaf to the strug­gles of Cal­gar­i­ans dur­ing this end­less eco­nomic down­turn. Now it’s turn­ing a blind eye, too. Tax­pay­ers de­serve bet­ter. Much, much bet­ter.

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