Letter to the Editor re: On responsibility toward public art
Public – adjective:
1. of or concerning the people as a whole.
2. done, perceived, or existing in open view.
3. of, for, or acting for a university
The mural on the ice arena came from an extensive public process. A request for proposals (RFP) invited artists to submit a plan for the wall. A committee with one Arts Station Board member, a City Council member and several members of the community evaluated the first group of RFP’s. From the initial RFP’s a few proposals were culled and displayed in the Arts Station Theatre for public comment. After a careful and well thought out process, the mural was chosen and the contract let to the two Vancouver artists.
The accepted mural proposal was very site specific combining the form and shape of formal figure skating exercises with the delineation of a hockey rink—blue line, center ice and so on. The artists’ interpretation of the formal forms and their interception with the lines of hockey made the piece appealing to the committee members. Arts Station members and interested community members canvassed the community to raise the funds for the piece. Individuals and businesses in the community funded the mural. No public tax dollars were spent on the installation.
Once the art was installed, a firestorm of controversy arose. People called it bad graffiti, tagging and other disparaging comments. The vast majority of detractors had not participated and only squealed loudly after the installation. This is exactly like complaining about the elected public officials, but never voting. If you want a voice, you participate. Otherwise, you hold no standing.
The painting over of the mural last week is a community travesty in a number of ways–beyond liking the mural or not. As a community, we should hold a modicum of respect for involved community members and those that funded the mural.
1. To destroy a work of art the result of an open public process through backroom negotiations and meetings without a process similar to the initiation is a slap in the face to all the people who spent time, donated money and worked to create the piece of public art in the first place. Their work is now devalued to zero.
2. This is not about “liking” the piece or “disliking the piece. This is about open public process vs. the unfettered actions of a disgruntled few forced on the community as a whole.
3. The piece should not have been taken down without a similar process and consideration to replace the piece. At the very least, one piece of public art should be replaced by another.
Last, the mission statement of the Arts Station is a follows:
By building connections and partnerships, The Arts Station encourages, fosters and supports artistic and cultural opportunities in the Elk Valley.
Rather than foster and support art in Fernie, the current Arts Station Board has chosen, without public discussion, to sanction and support the painting over of a piece of public art. This is an abomination and a gross failure to maintain the foundational principles of the Arts Station. The mural was the result of an extensive and public consultation both in the choice of the piece and in the funding of the installation. With such a complete lack of sensibility and respect toward the process of public art, and art in general, the whole board becomes suspect.
The Arts Station Board owes the Fernie community a clear explanation of why, where we once had a mural, we now have a baby poop brown wall adorned with no parking signs.
Now the question becomes, what will ensue? Will the same cast foist their idea of public art on our community or will they encourage and respect future public engagement in an open and transparent manner.
Keith LiggettFernie, B.C.
Letter to the Editor re: Public art
In the past week I have been involved in several conversations with local artist and citizens regarding the removal of the public art on the arena wall.
Artists in particular voiced a reluctance to participate in further commissioned public art projects without community involvement. Citizens were annoyed and upset with the cover up and wondered about replacement.
The initial public art project took about a year to implement, with 10 ambassadors selected from all walks of life.
That process should be honoured with further conversations to set the foundation for further engagement of artists with community.
Installation and removal of public art, with public funds, should be a public process.
Mary MendukFernie, B.C.
Letter to the Editor re: Public art
Destroy public art? Who’s decision was that? Who was asked? Was there a public process to decide what could be or should be done?
If I were the artist I would be devastated unless there was a policy in place. For future generations let’s use public art money wisely with input from the community.
Beulah LimberFernie, B.C.