Calgary wants your opinion on its public art selection process

Mar 28 2018, 7:03 pm

Public art has always been a controversial topic in Calgary, and now there’s an opportunity for citizens to share their opinions with the people in charge.

From now until April 15, the City will be hosting an online survey on their website. There will also be a phone survey administered in April that will engage about 500 people.

The City is hoping to discover residents’ feelings on public art, their awareness and familiarity of the public art process, location preferences, the types of work they would like to see, interest in participating, and how to inform them about new opportunities.

The information provided will be put towards recommendations for improving the current process, which will go to council in June 2018.

Current process

At present, the public art process involves funding from 1% of all city capital projects under $50 million plus 0.5% of funds exceeding that, up to a maximum of $4 million.

The artists themselves charge a fee between 10-20% of the artwork budget. The rest of the budget is poured into fabrication, installation, inspection, engineering reports, community engagement, and the like.

There is also a structured process around the inception and creation of public artwork.

When a new capital project – and its artwork funding – is confirmed, a project plan is put together outlining the goals, objectives, stakeholders, engagement strategies, expenses in administration, and budget. Once created, the plan is given over to the Public Art Board to make sure all the needed criteria are met.

Once cleared, an artist is chosen. For art projects more than $75,000, there is an open competition for international and local artists. For projects under $75,000 there is simply a call to artists, typically limited to national or local artists, artists of specific disciplines (like sculptors who work in metal or stone), or artists of indigenous heritage.

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After applications are complete, a selection panel of three community members, three art professionals, and one City representative is put together. The panel reviews the applicants until three are chosen for interviews, and then one is finally decided.

Before the artist starts working on their creation, they take part in public engagement and research, which takes the form of artist-led workshops, public talks, surveys, and focus groups.

Using the information they gathered, the artist puts together a concept that is then reviewed by experts in areas of engineering, safety, and environmental protection.

Once the concept is reviewed and approved, the piece begins construction. When the art is complete – and if Calgary tradition holds up – it is then met with severely mixed reviews and calls for changes to the City’s public art process.