The city has decided going piece-by-piece and project-by-project in integrating art into the city’s public spaces may not be the best plan of attack.
When Coun. Charlie Cornfield saw the city was planning to carry over $43,000 for public art from this year into next year’s budget during the recent financial planning deliberations, he wondered how that was possible, considering public art only gets an annual budget of $25,000.
“There are, broadly speaking, two types of public art,” responded Ron Bowles, the city’s manager of corporate services, “the small public art that can cost maybe a few thousand dollars and the large public art projects that can be tens of thousands of dollars. The intent of this fund, at this time, is to carry forward from year to year to allow the city to save up for those larger art projects.”
“This was one allocation that was meant to build up,” agreed Chief Financial Officer Myriah Foort, “because it takes a while to build the pot up enough to actually do a large art project.”
Coun. Colleen Evans suggested that because the city currently doesn’t have a “master plan” in terms of public art policy, “we don’t have any process for maintenance of the art, for artist fees, for all of the areas that are associated with public art,” they don’t have any way to really plan these things and budget for them accordingly, but she thinks it’s important for that money to remain as a “carry forward fund.”
But that lack of overarching plan will be addressed this year, as council decided to take $20,000 of that carry forward and put it towards the creation of a Public Art Master Plan that will address the current lack of direction and policy in regards to the how and where art will be created and installed within the community.
Which is a fantastic plan of attack, according to Campbell River Arts Council Executive Director Ken Blackburn.
“What exactly it’s going to look like, nobody knows at this point,” Blackburn says, “but at least it will give us a process and a vehicle to begin talking about what public art can do.”
He’s also hoping that the focus moves away from “areas” of the city and becomes more of an umbrella for the city as a whole.
“What I’m really hoping that we can demonstrate to the community how important public art is for the revitalization and re-activation of the city – yes, especially for the downtown space, but what will be nice is if it branches out and we start to say, ‘what about Campbellton? What about Willow Point? What about Dogwood?’
“If we can focus our public art plan and have it look at the community as a whole and how the community interrelates with each other – how people experience the community – then we can start to be progressive and proactive, and I think that’s what the plan should focus on. More of a holistic and integrated approach.
“And if we have more of a policy about what we’re trying to achieve through a public art plan, we can be much more reactive and nimble when an opportunity presents itself, as well, whether that’s in infrastructure upgrading or whatever,” Blackburn continues. “Instead of doing a project and then saying, ‘oh, I guess we should add some art, too’ after it’s done, it can be part of the whole discussion right from the start. But that can only happen if there’s an overarching vision, so I’m excited this is something the city has decided to take on.”