Calgary sus­pends public art program

Times Colonist - - Arts -

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.

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