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Temporary public art program ruffles some feathers on Kelowna council

The Bear at Jim Stuart Park is one of Kelowna's most beloved public art installations.
June 22, 2015 - 8:00 PM

KELOWNA - A proposal for a trial temporary art installation program divided city councillors despite the relatively modest price tag of $15,000.

For that sum, the temporary art in public places pilot program would deliver one piece of art, installed at a yet-to-be-decided location, which will be gone in six months, then returned to the artist who created it, who can then do with it what they please.

From it, planning specialist Patrick McCormick says the city will receive what the great cities around the world receive for their own temporary art programs.

“The program would help animate Kelowna’s public spaces… by constantly changing, a continuing variety of installations would add a dynamic element to Kelowna’s urban environment,” says McCormick, in his report to council. “[It will] allow and faciliate installations that deal with themes and contemporary topics that are time sensitive and are not necessarily enduring in the long term.”

McCormick said the program would be administered by the Kelowna Art Gallery through a service agreement and all the installations would be on city-owned land in pedestrian-oriented locations, primarily downtown, Rutland and the South Pandosy urban centre.

Council eventually supported the pilot program, but not without mixed debate over the merits and possible pitfalls of temporary art, including the lack of control over the themes that might be presented.

“We’re going to be the ones with egg on our faces. I would like to see this come back to council for approval,” said Coun. Brad Siebens, who along with Coun. Tracy Gray eventually voted against the proposal. “We are supposed to be stewards of the taxpayers money.”

Coun. Ryan Donn was unwavering in his support of the program, despite the potential for negative reaction.

“Supporting public art is supporting hits and misses. We need to allow some failures to get to the gems. Art isn’t this controlled thing. I think we will have more positives than negatives,” said Donn. “It’s temporary. If people don’t like it, in six months it will be gone and we will get another piece.”

City manager Ron Mattiussi told councillors of similar misgivings held by councillors when the public art program was first proposed 15 years ago.

“There was a huge fight about putting art in public. But public art is not for the faint of heart. Clearly, there will be things people love and people hate but overall, the city will be richer for it,” he said. "The checks and balances is over the long term. That’s how council has to judge it, in the long run. Certainly over the last 15 years, I’ve cringed as I watched some of the installations come forward, but over time, I’ve come to love some of them.”

The temporary art in public spaces pilot program will be back before council after the trial run for consideration of making it a permanent program with a budget of $30,000 a year.

To contact the reporter for this story, email John McDonald at or call 250-808-0143. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
InfoTel News Ltd

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