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If Calgary vote is any indication, public art means never having to say you’re sorry

Traffic passes a sculpture by New York artist Del Geist, which is called "Bowfort Towers" and is located near Canada Olympic Park in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, Aug. 9.
Traffic passes a sculpture by New York artist Del Geist, which is called "Bowfort Towers" and is located near Canada Olympic Park in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, Aug. 9. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Calgary city council has shot down an attempt by Councillor Jeromy Farkas to have council apologize for the corporate public arts policy.

READ MORE: Calgary city councillor wants to see end to publicly funded art

At their meeting Tuesday, the controversial Ward 11 councillor spoke of the criticism surrounding the art installation in the north-east called the “Travelling Light”, better known to Calgarians as the giant blue ring and of the Bowfort Towers near Canada Olympic Park.

READ MORE: New public art creating controversy 

“In my mind, it is a necessary step forward to re-building trust,” Farkas said.

“The reputation of the city should not have been damaged in this manner and trust in the work that we do at city hall should never have been lost in the way that it was.”

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“This, to me, is meaningless,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who spoke against an apology.

“There’s symbolism and gestures and I think symbolism is important and gestures are important and sometimes they’re very important but actions are important.”

Nenshi says when challenges show up in the system, council has worked hard to try to fix the problem.

READ MORE: New Calgary public art ‘reminiscent of a cross between a hockey player and a drinking bird’

The vote result against an apology was 9-2, with only councillors Farkas and Chu supporting a mea culpa. Those against an apology were Nenshi, Chahal, Davison, Farrell, Gondek, Jones, Keating, Magliocca and Sutherland.

City council made a number of changes to the public art policy on Monday night and Farkas felt an apology was warranted as well.

READ MORE: Have an opinion on Calgary’s public art program? The city wants to hear from you

Meanwhile, after the item when city council went behind closed doors on a personnel issue, Farkas left that session and was visibly upset, slamming his binder down on his desk.

He, in fact, went in and out of the meeting on a couple of occasions and when council returned to public session wanted to know what could be made public about the session.

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Councillors are tied to confidentiality rules and usually not able to share information.

“I felt that the direction of the meeting was not constructive. I can’t go into more details because it’s been made very clear to me that if I violate my own confidentiality, I am putting my own elected office at risk.”

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