Opinion: A Grassroots Art Solution for the west LRT
I don’t know about you guys but I just don’t get it. I really truly don’t.
There’s a debate happening down at City Hall and it’s got this city in a tizzy. The question is simple. Is $8.6 million too much to spend on public art to beautify the $1.5 billion west LRT?
PRETTY ENOUGH? The architecture of the west LRT currently being built is beautiful like this station being worked on along 17th Avenue and is a hands down improvement to the utilitarian concrete ones. But is it enough? The debate over funding to beautify the space with public art rages on with proponents on both sides wanting a solution to be found and soon.
Photos by Amy Jo Espetveidt, Quadrophonic Image
See, the city has this policy to budget one per cent of every capital project over $1 million towards public art. Government, private, millions, billions, whatever. One per cent needs to go to art. Public art. And it’s a grand thought in theory. The more public, awesome, fantastic art, the better. It makes this city a great place to live.
But every time the one per cent pops up in the news, the commentary goes berserk. “It’s an outrage,” bellows cries from one side. “A million dollars for a scrap metal tree. Are you nuts?”
“We need art and it should be mandated,” screams the other side. “If you let one project not meet the requirement, where will it end?”
It’s a hot button topic every single time. Should all this money be put into public art? Just look at the stink over the west LRT line.
The line itself is over budget and the funds for art weren’t allocated at the beginning. Fair enough. So, should council beg, borrow and steal to get the monies? They’ve apparently found $3.5 million already taking from other public art and transportation projects. And that’s cool too. You can get some pretty sweet art made for $3.5 million.
But let’s just face the facts, if the money isn’t there it just isn’t there. There’s got to be a middle ground.
So why not look inwards at the city’s vibrant arts community? Can’t we look at something that can be accomplished for a lot less? Does it have to have this $8.6 million price tag? Why so finite? Can we not go grassroots?
I’ve been following this story closely for sometime now and I have to believe that our amazing community of artists would come up with something on any budget given half the chance. Those guys rock.
In the heated debate online, I saw one idea that stuck in my head. The commenter snidely suggested the city just let the graffiti artists at it as they’ll get there anyway. Well, why not? Graffiti art can be amazing. And look at what one staffer at the Spyhill Landfill did with materials that were thrown away. I bet the city could pay the artists fair market value for their time and work and still be well under budget.
Just look at other projects that have happened over the past few months – Papergirl, Bad Portraits and Great Grates, Mini Maker Faire, all the work being done in the East Village, Nuit Blanche – all have been received with open arms by the community and none have broke the bank. Many have come to be with a simple grant from Calgary 2012.
And what about the semi-permanent art installations at the Anderson LRT Station this summer put on by the Calgary Creative City Collaboration (C4) for their Urban Stationary project? Here’s a group of dedicated Calgary artists, working within the LRT line, doing pop-up galleries, bringing art to the people. If these young, creative and driven artists can spruce up Anderson on a shoestring, I couldn’t image what they’d do if you gave them a million dollars and have at it.
But still the debate rages on.
The Council members once again tackled the issue just this last Monday. Mayor Naheed Nenshi wanted to put it to bed then and there. There’s $3.5 million, that should do it and I tend to agree. But Alderman Richard Pootmans wanted a few more months to find more. Yet, he’s the one who wanted to give a chunk of the $8.6 to other projects, according to the Calgary Sun.
The Sun’s Rick Bell also argued that the stunning architecture is the art and enough is enough. According to his opinion piece Alderman Peter Demong agrees. I’m with Mr Bell that it’s oh so pretty and very cool, but wouldn’t well planned public art just add to that beauty?
There’s even a Calgary Arts Plan Public Roundtable being held in the upcoming month and I’m sure the west LRT will come up. (And if you feel passionately about art either way, you should sign up and make your voice heard.) I look forward to hearing more perspectives there on this and all art projects.
Now, the final decision won’t be heard until January.
I wonder if that might be enough time for a Calgary based grassroots solution to be found, designed, priced and lobbied for?
I think it’s doable. Calgary has an amazing spirit and if the great minds in this community put their heads together I’m sure they could find something that would work. And I’m sure it would be awesome.