A member of Calgary’s Public Art Board is responding to the flurry of criticism around the Bowfort Towers art installation recently unveiled in the city, saying she’s proud Calgarians get to enjoy the piece.
“Public art can be an easy target during election years, and I am not surprised that it has created such a stir within this city,” board member Carrie Phillips Kieser said in an email to Global News.
“However, just because something is not understood, does not been it is not meaningful and important.
“Great art often begins with controversy and over the years becomes iconic and treasured.”
Kieser went on to explain that she, nor any of the other members of the board, were part of choosing the art piece. Instead, the board members “act as advocates for the staff for the program, which we strongly believe in.”
The controversial public art sits at the Trans-Canada Highway and the Bowfort Road interchange and is not yet complete — it’s scheduled to be finished in the fall.
WATCH: Tsuut’ina Nation broke its silence Tuesday on a new controversial piece of public art on Calgary’s west side. Tracy Nagai reports
Kieser explained that because the project – which has a $500,000 price tag – exceeds $75,000, the city was required by trade agreements to open the request for proposals to artists outside the city and province.
Several threw their name in the hat, and three were chosen by a panel of seven Calgarians.
The artists chosen to commission the installation, Taewook Cha, Del Geist and Patricia Leighton, are internationally recognized artists, Kieser said, adding she’s “proud that Calgarians have been added to their list of people who can enjoy the work.”
“I have driven past the piece on my way into the city and think it is a wonderful addition to the City of Calgary’s public art collection.”
Consultation process questioned
Bowfort Towers is meant to pay tribute to Blackfoot culture — however, a number of First Nations have questioned the consultation process.
Kieser said the city connected the artist with a Blackfoot knowledge keeper, and through that he “came to understand the importance of the number four and decided to build four towers.”
“The piece is not by an Indigenous artist and is not attempting to appropriate Indigenous culture,” she said.
“Although the artists acknowledge Indigenous history and heritage present in the area, their work speaks to global concerns of ecological, environmental and natural surroundings.”
Calgary’s mayor said Thursday he hasn’t seen the art piece yet, but defended the volunteer members of the selection committee, saying they followed the consultation process “to a T.” He also admitted that “maybe” the consultation process should be changed.
WATCH: Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi weighed in on the ongoing public art debate after recent backlash over the Bowfort Towers art installation. Doug Vaessen reports