2017 Calgary mayoral candidates Q&A: What is your position on the city’s public art policy?

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WATCH: Mayoral candidates Andre Chabot, Naheed Nenshi and Bill Smith answer the question: What is your position on the city’s public art policy versus spending on other infrastructure and programs? – Oct 13, 2017

Global News asked our Calgary viewers and readers to tell us which issues matter most ahead of the municipal election on Oct. 16.

The public art budget and approval process were among the top concerns.

We asked all 10 mayoral candidates to answer your questions below, keeping answers to six sentences per issue. Their answers are reprinted here, edited only to meet our Global News editorial standards.

FULL COVERAGE: 2017 Calgary municipal election


Why do you think there has been so much controversy over the city’s public art spending and how would you like to see the public art budget allocated? Would you consider a public forum as part of the approval process for art projects? How are you going to make council and administration accountable for expenditures?  

Answer from Jason (Jason GoGo) Achtymichuk:

“I believe this issue arose over a lack of explanation and communication. The only way to truly satisfy the public is to create such a diverse public landscape of art that there will be something for everyone. Perhaps the city has to look at providing a tax credit for private companies to fund this type of program.

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Contemporary Calgary is trying to create a gallery of unimaginable scale for Calgary from the private sector. They offered the city a 10-year deal with a five-year option on a building that the city owns; the city came back with a 33-month deal in an off-site shed from the preferred location. This is why nothing has gotten done on this important endeavour.”

Answer from Andre Chabot:

“I was one of the signatories of a notice of motion asking for a freeze on all new public arts spending until the current policy can be reviewed. Public input would be welcomed and encouraged, as well as placing emphasis on our local artists being used whenever possible.”

Answer from Brent Chisholm:

No response by publication time.

Answer from Emile Gabriel:

“I am in favour of a wide public consultation and feedback when it comes to art, since art is a subjective issue and a matter of taste. The process has to be improved and made more transparent and fair to all of those who are willing to participate.”

Answer from Larry Heather:

“This mandatory percentage of any project cost and being on location to the project is set up for rife abuse by snobbish elitists who disdain the fashions of the common people. Thus such abominations like the Blue Ring (a blue ring of discourse circling a non-entity), the sewer palace lighting and the Bowfort Towers burial platforms. Public art must be maintainable, take the weathering, and not so accessible that it becomes the easy object of vandals. If we wanted true beauty at the Western edge of our city; if we wanted truly great public art, we would pool the funds with corporate donations and produce something like the Lakota tribe Dignity statue overlooking the Missouri River in South Dakota.”

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Answer from David Lapp:

“Public art has been a major area where the City has dropped the ball. There hasn’t been quality consultation or representation on this issue and Calgarians are right to be angry. This is, by and large, a gigantic waste of money — and it’s not even real art. This disastrous program needs to be shut down immediately. It’s a slap in the face to Calgarians that they have to endure this insult during a recession when the average family struggles to even put food on the table. As far as the average Calgarian is concerned, the current mayor and council have become a ‘Let them eat cake’ government.”

Answer from Naheed Nenshi:

“The changes we made in 2014 to our public art policy were designed to get more public input, but clearly it hasn’t worked well as it should have and we need to do better.

That is why council voted to review the public art program and put future acquisitions on hold for a few months. It is our hope that this pause gives us the time to review any gaps in the decision-making process and better support the independent volunteer panels. I don’t believe politicians should be responsible for selecting public art but we should get our citizens more engaged in the selection process. There is also a better balance we can find between fostering the careers of local artists and making sure we are open to artists from elsewhere, as our local artists appreciate the reciprocal access to other places. Remember, the majority of public art funding is spent in Calgary as most public art is fabricated here and requires Calgarians to install it.”

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Answer from Curtis Olson:

“In this economic downturn, Calgarians want to see controlled spending by city hall and I believe that citizens view the Bow Towers ‘art installation’ as a blatant example of frivolous spending. A review and rewrite of the public art policy is necessary.”

Answer from Bill Smith:

“The public art program has to be fixed. I support public art, but the public must have greater involvement in the decision-making process. It is time to put the ‘public’ back in public art and include more local artists. We need to actually listen to what people want, not tell them what they should want.”

Answer from Stan (the Man) Waciak:

[RE: Controversy] “Because it’s crap art.”
[RE: Public forum] “Yes, everybody should get a say.”
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[RE: How to make council and administration accountable] “What do you want done? Some things have to be done. All expenditures should be scrutinized.”

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