Changes are Coming to Calgary’s Public Art Policy

Public art has been one of the biggest topics around City Hall over the last month. The unveiling of a new art installation, Bowfort Towers, has brought to light some significant issues facing our current Public Art Policy. Calgarians have raised some very serious concerns about the selection process for our public art both in terms of concepts and in locations. Calgarians are also wondering if the current funding program is the most appropriate way to support public art in our city.

I have always considered myself someone who focuses on outcomes. Public outrage and social media sniping don’t solve our problems with public art – but thoughtful action does. A single piece of art that is deemed unpopular shouldn’t be the reason for us to scrap a policy; that’s a far too reactionary way to approach policy. What we need to do is evaluate policies and identify how we can bring in improvements that might better serve the interests of Calgarians.

That is the exact reason I reached out to Councillor Chu to partner on a Notice of Motion that would tackle this issue. We took time to consider our options, understand the policy and discuss changes with Administration. With input from other members of Council we have ultimately ended up with a proposal that will dramatically change how our Public Art Policy works. I want to thank Councillor Chu for bringing this forward and allowing me to add on to his Motion.

The Motion has two key components:

  1. Administration immediately suspend further Requests for Proposals (RFPs) on new public art installations.
  2. Administration report back to Council with a new framework for selecting public art concepts and location. This framework needs to embed feedback from Calgarians into the selection process. The report would also outline when and how the public art suspension could be lifted.

You can view a full copy of the Notice of Motion here:

Public Art NM

Public art adds undeniable value to our city; there are countless examples of art done well throughout Calgary. But we need to get back to the basics. Public art should be something that Calgarians can appreciate and interact with. Our selection process shouldn’t obsess over filing out an art gallery of pieces from specific artists from around the world. The best way to build support for public art is to invite Calgarians to be a part of the public art process.

I believe this Motion is a big step in the right direction. I’m looking forward to a healthy discussion at Council on September 11 and hope that Council will pass these policy changes.