Councillor Gail Parks makes some interesting points regarding public art policy. However, she may also be raising some alarm bells within the arts community.
Regarding competitions for major civic projects, it is very important to keep the field open to professional artists from as many countries as possible, so that in selecting works most suited for a specified space, the jury chooses from among the very best the art community has to offer.
When we speak of the art community, we speak of the global community. Red Deer has arrived on the international scene in so many ways, not the least of which is the arts themselves. We can and should compete with the best, to challenge our standards. If a local artist wins what is an international competition, we all celebrate; if not, we all learn and are enriched by another’s vision.
Either way, we win. But don’t single out the locals into a subsection of their own.
Imagine the categories in such a competition: The Top Entry, and the Top Local Entry.
How would the winner of the local section feel? Good enough for us, but not for the world. No thanks.
As for whether certain public spaces are suitable, such as a police station or civic garage, it’s not just visitors that benefit from good art.
Imagine those who work in these environments. Art “humanizes” and engages; that’s the whole purpose of implementing a public arts policy in the first place.
Blended with good architecture fine art can provide a stimulating environment for visitors and staff alike. It has been proven time and again that worker satisfaction and productivity benefit from such surroundings.
Again we all win.
In times of economic difficulty the percentage/ratio for public art should probably be raised, not lowered. I had the good fortune to experience first hand how public art literally saved the town of Chemainus on Vancouver Island. People will come from far and wide to experience good art, whether it be in the form of festivals, concerts, art exhibitions, magnificent architecture (think St. Mary’s), performances, schools of art themselves, or permanent art installations in public spaces.
Governments everywhere are hoping to inject new life into communities with programs and investments to stimulate the economy. Cutting back public art spending to appear fiscally cautious will in fact diminish the very economic and spiritual stimulus a community stands to gain.
It turns out art is not a frill, but creates the very heart and soul of a people. And while we are on the subject, are not the arts an industry that creates jobs?