Calgary suspends public art program
Calgary city council has voted unanimously to put its public art program on hold pending a review. The controversial program has been a lightning rod for public outrage in recent years. The policy requires one per cent of the capital budget of major infrastructure projects to be spent on art.
But Calgarians have widely criticized works such as the Travelling Light, a large sculpture that some have mockingly dubbed the Big Blue Ring.
More recently, Bowfort Towers — a steel-and-rock sculpture by New York artist Del Geist — came under fire for its $500,000 price tag as well as controversy over whether it appropriated Indigenous culture.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi has acknowledged the city’s public art policy needs to change, but he also called criticism of Bowfort Towers unfair.
City Coun. Sean Chu, a vocal opponent of public funding for the arts, said Calgarians are frustrated with the program because they don’t have a say. “You have to come out with some items and let the public pick either through social media or in person because every person understands democracy,” Chu said.
Currently, all public art is chosen by a seven-member panel, six of whom are volunteers.