The right amount of art for Edmonton's major infrastructure projects: executive committee

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Diverse art projects that span Edmonton may no longer be encumbered by tethering them to large infrastructure jobs, a city committee decided Monday.

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A proposed new art policy approved unanimously by city council’s executive committee Monday allows the Edmonton Arts Council to plan decades ahead, place new art in areas people don’t expect and include pieces made by a diversity of artists.

Mayor Don Iveson said during a media availability that one per cent of the growth portion of infrastructure projects typically goes towards an art commission that is attached to a specific infrastructure project such as a bridge, however the new policy allows art to be built elsewhere.

“We will continue to invest about the same amount in the art but it will be portable around the city so we can make sure the art is going in a park, or a great public space, or along a main street where people can interact with it and see it,” said Iveson.

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David Turnbull made a virtual presentation on behalf of the Edmonton Arts Council during the executive committee’s meeting and he said the new policy allows the arts council to plan decades in advance.

“By decoupling it from individual projects it allows us to look at public art through the lens of the overall city,” Turnbull said in an interview with Postmedia.

“It puts how we want to do public art within the city really within the hands of the arts council to bring that forward to the city to say this is what we’re looking at doing for the next four years, this is the direction that we’re aiming for the next 10 years, 20 years and it’s an opportunity to look at how as a city we can move the needle forward for public art.”

The new policy also changes the way art commissions are funded. If approved by council, the Edmonton Arts Council will be looking at a pooled amount of money based on a capital cycle instead of responding to projects on a project-by-project basis, said Turnbull.

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Ward 6 Coun. Scott McKeen closed the discussion in chambers and said sometimes art shouldn’t go where it makes sense and the new policy allows this to happen more often.

“I do like that we have put some major pieces of public art in weird places,” said McKeen. “Talus Dome comes to mind and also the structures atop the Kathleen Andrews Transit Garage and the first time I saw that, I remember just smiling and thinking that is so weird it is wonderful.”

The new art policy will also look to bring more diversity to Edmonton’s art scene to represent the city’s community. Iveson mentioned River Lot 11, Edmonton’s Indigenous Art Park, as an example and said other similar and interactive art pieces could be implemented in the city.

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“I think at River Lot 11 where we worked with the Indigenous community and the arts council to intentionally curate a space, I think we created something very special there and I think this new art policy will allow us to do that in more places, potentially starting from scratch, like we did there or building on a collection that’s already in place,” said Iveson.

Iveson added that the art business has historically been dominated by men and people from a dominant cultural community, however the arts community has become more diverse in recent years and making sure the city’s art collection reflects the diversity of Edmonton is a priority of the new policy.

Turnbull said the art itself is also diverse and more interactive mediums including light, sound and experiential are becoming more popular.

The new art policy will go to council next week.

ktaniguchi@postmedia.com

twitter.com/kellentaniguchi

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