I have never before written a letter to the editor, but I cannot stand by and watch our public art policy be slowly withered away by persons who do not understand how the arts enhance our world.
City Councillor Gail Parks’ suggestion that the public art budget be whittled down to perhaps 0.5 per cent would take the heart out of the whole idea of public art.
It’s currently at 1.2 per cent, and I am of the belief that to “spread it around” the budget would have to be raised, not lowered. That way, perhaps more artists can be involved and more art would be available around the city. (Besides the 1.2 per cent comes out of construction costs only, not for design, engineering, administration, etc., so really the cost is considerably less if you take those into account.)
However, to limit art to just Red Deer artists or to Alberta artists would not benefit our citizens. Why? Because art from local, regional, national and international artists would provide a much greater appreciation for how the arts integrate people — artists learn from other artists and go on to improve their own work through collaboration, contemplation and encouraging new ideas to find fertile ground in artists imaginations.
The public see the benefits in the spinoff of not only to visitors to our city who come to view the art, but to help those artists with associated costs for materials, fabrication, shipping, labour, whatever it takes to get the public art into its new home.
We also take pride in our city’s forward thinking.
What do newcomers to the city seek but what the city can offer in respect to quality of life; and, art and culture is one of the biggest things that rate on their scale.
As to using local artists, some of our local artists compete internationally and many of them are well represented in our public art.
Just off the top of my head, I can name quite a few — Dave More, Brian McArthur, Dawn Deterando, Roy Mills, Michael Downs, Darren Peterson, to name a few.
To keep a healthy and vibrant arts community, I doubt that any one of these artists would be against going international to look for quality art pieces to enhance our city landscape.
Yes, we have a vibrant and growing arts community, but many of our local artists do not have the ability to go for large public art pieces. Many produce on a much smaller scale.
Perhaps by increasing our public art budget, we can use these same artists for smaller pieces in more public spaces. But I imagine, they would be extremely proud to be named if they knew they were competing on a much grander stage than just local.
Imagine their pride in knowing they were good enough to compete and win!
Look at the art in the Collicutt Centre, the Recreation Centre, along Alexander Way, the Ghost Project and our involvement with the Alberta Foundation for the Arts to bring world-class Alberta artists to our city.
Since all the competitions are an open call to all artists and are not hand picked, all artists get an opportunity to provide Red Deer with high-calibre art.
Instead of a repeat of a canal idea, perhaps we should be thinking of doing more public art on both large, medium and small scale and let the world start coming to us and thinking about Red Deer in terms of their vacation planning.
Imagine the spinoffs from that!