If people didn't like 'scary' art they would have shown up for consultation: Vernon councillor | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source
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If people didn't like 'scary' art they would have shown up for consultation: Vernon councillor

FILE PHOTO - Vernon Public Art Gallery executive director Dauna Kennedy poses for a photo. If the public really didn't want the Behind the Mask murals to be displayed in Vernon then more of them would have turned out during the public consultation and voted no, says Vernon councillor Akbal Mund. Coun. Mund's comment came after a passionate presentation from the Vernon Public Art Gallery as it tried to sway the opinion of council after the politicians put a halt on the public art project last month.

If the public really didn't want the Behind the Mask murals to be displayed in Vernon then more of them would have turned out during the public consultation and voted no, says Vernon councillor Akbal Mund.

Coun. Mund's comment came after a passionate presentation from the Vernon Public Art Gallery as it tried to sway the opinion of council after the politicians put a halt on the public art project last month.

Art gallery president Andrew Powell said the gallery's relationship and reputation with the art world would suffer if council rejected the project and it would affect its ability to get grants in the future.

Powell also pointed out that Vernon council and the Regional District North Okanagan, along with the Canada Council for the Arts and other bodies had put their support behind it dating back two years.

The gallery had also spent $23,000 of the grant money and bought the supplies for the murals.

The public art controversy arose after Vernon council approved spending $33,000 on a project called Behind the Mask.

The project saw Calgary-based artist Katie Green run workshops exploring the theme of mental health where Vernon residents made masks.

The artists were then photographed wearing their masks and 11 photographs were scheduled to be placed at various sites around Vernon.

However, after city council approved the project opposition sprung up.

An online petition launched by Sharmay Taylor described the art as "awful" and likely to scare kids. The petition incorrectly said the artists weren't local and gained more than 4,000 signatures.

The gallery had also said lots of children have visited the exhibit and none were scared.

READ MORE: Behind the Mask: Vernon's 'scary' murals don't actually scare children

A counter online petition garnered 1,700 signatures.

Vernon council then put a pause on the project asking the gallery to do public consultation.

The gallery described the 353 people that took part in the consultation as a "good sample size" that represented the different age demographics in the community.

The gallery found 65 per cent in favour of the project, and 18 per cent changed their minds once they'd seen the project at the gallery.

However, councillor Scott Anderson was critical of the way the consultation was rolled out.

"I'm struggling with why the art gallery did not allow online feedback?" Coun. Anderson asked.

READ MORE: JONESIE: Public art exposes politicians for who they really are

"There had been so much skewed information, skewed images on the internet that really the only way to be able to show the true information and the true images was to have the people come and view it," art gallery executive director Dauna Kennedy replied.

Kennedy said a lot of criticism came from the lack of public consultation but pointed out that a public consultation process doesn't exist because Vernon doesn't have a public art policy.

Coun. Mund questioned the validity of the online anti-mural petition.

"If the general public is really against this, more than 2.25 per cent of the (4,000) people (that voted against it online) would have come to the gallery and voted no," he told the meeting.

While the gallery was eager for a decision on whether the council would approve the project or not, its policy is not to vote after a delegation presentation.

This means, the artists involved won't get an answer until the next council meeting, which because it's summer won't happen for another month.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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