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Public Art - Do you like it? e.g. Arena or Bastion Sq.?


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#1 PublicArt

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Posted 20 January 2009 - 10:51 PM

HI,

Public Art in Victoria is, sort of, very touchy subject...someone, behind closed doors, makes a decision and the public pay for it.

Do you think it is OK that the public is not a part of "the decision-making"?

We had the Save on Food Memorial Arena public art project, ...$120,000 ..now the Bastion Square - new canoe for $90,000. Do you know that 20 more artists also applied for the Bastion Sq., project at the time? Have you seen their submissions, art proposals? I do not think so.

Do you know how does the process of art selection work? A lot of mystery...

Please visit: http://PublicArt.ca The system can be changed if you really think that it is not fair.

Thank you, Andy

#2 VicHockeyFan

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Posted 20 January 2009 - 10:55 PM

I don't think anyone should be made to install public art. If they wanna do it, and it will add to their project, then so be it. We should not require a public art percentage. That 1 or 2% would be better spent on LEED items to help save our planet, not some chrome globe that only adds to the environmentally poor footprint.

#3 G-Man

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Posted 21 January 2009 - 07:22 AM

While I am not sold on developers always being on the hook for Public Art I do think that we need to have it and much more than we currently have.

I really like the new Bastion Square piece and think the one at SOFMC is ok but it would have been better if it was three or four time bigger as it seems dwarfed by the open space around it.

#4 concorde

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Posted 21 January 2009 - 08:42 PM

I'm still waiting for the person to pick up their garbage they left in front of Save on Foods Centre, or is that supposed to be art?

#5 Rob Randall

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Posted 21 January 2009 - 09:13 PM

Do you know that 20 more artists also applied for the Bastion Sq., project at the time? Have you seen their submissions, art proposals? I do not think so.


Just about every working artist in Victoria went to the initial information sessions for this request for proposals. I think I counted around 50 people.

Although my specialty is painting and drawing, I do have done sculpture and other 3-D work in the past so I thought I'd give it a shot.

I spent a lot of time with a pencil and sketchbook trying to work out a design for Bastion Square. I was planning it for the podium near the coffee shop overlooking Wharf. There were so many parameters: it had to be safe (no sharp edges, not 'climbable' etc.)

I gave up because the designs I came up with were only passable, they weren't particularly inspired. And I doubted it could be constructed on budget as it consisted of multiple compound curves made from steel or aluminum.

One of the hardest things was making it look good from all angles, so that no side looked like the back end.

I think I'm pretty creative but the guy that did Pavillion Rock and Shell is more skilled than I am with sculpture so I take my hat of to him. And the next person to say the creator is a hack is going to get my boot up his ass.

Baden realizes now that the electric sign overpowers his piece and that had he known the sign was going to be so dominant he would have made his piece bigger.

#6 mat

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Posted 21 January 2009 - 09:16 PM

I'm still waiting for the person to pick up their garbage they left in front of Save on Foods Centre, or is that supposed to be art?


take a photo and post it - we can pass it on the the UN ARTS preservation council and get a ruling. :)

#7 Rob Randall

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Posted 21 January 2009 - 09:18 PM

Do you think it is OK that the public is not a part of "the decision-making"?

Yes, it is possible to have more members of the general public involved with the decision making but be careful what you wish for.

Whenever the public votes on art the result is whatever appealed to the lowest common denominator. More often than not, you end up with plain dreck.

#8 Ginger Snap

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Posted 21 January 2009 - 10:02 PM

Yes, it is possible to have more members of the general public involved with the decision making but be careful what you wish for.

Whenever the public votes on art the result is whatever appealed to the lowest common denominator. More often than not, you end up with plain dreck.



The alternative, then, is to not let the 'common people' in on it? Let the real artists decide what is best for us? I am not trying to be rude, but I really detest the attitude that some artists show (not saying you specifically, I don't know you from Adam) when they feel that something is only good art if the majority of people don't get it.

#9 mat

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Posted 21 January 2009 - 10:10 PM

Yes, it is possible to have more members of the general public involved with the decision making but be careful what you wish for.

Whenever the public votes on art the result is whatever appealed to the lowest common denominator. More often than not, you end up with plain dreck.


Thanks Rob - well said. My previous post was a bit of satire. I am personally not certain what is the best route for public consultation for open and tax payer funded (or other?) art on public ground. However, when I look at what small towns have accomplished in terms of public art installations in Europe, vs Canada - we are seriously lacking.

#10 Rob Randall

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Posted 21 January 2009 - 10:11 PM

...I really detest the attitude that some artists show (not saying you specifically, I don't know you from Adam) when they feel that something is only good art if the majority of people don't get it.


That's not the point we're trying to get across. Believe me, art is too tough a profession to go into solely to fleece the public or try to put one over on them. No artist I know (and I know virtually every one in Victoria) gets satisfaction out of producing art in order to make people feel foolish or like outsiders.

The best art reveals itself over time. Good art shouldn't be a one-note shtick.

But I acknowledge that there will always be those that think public sculpture can only be a "realistic" bronze statue of a person and that anything else is an abomination.

#11 mat

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Posted 21 January 2009 - 10:21 PM

That's not the point we're trying to get across. Believe me, art is too tough a profession to go into solely to fleece the public or try to put one over on them. No artist I know (and I know virtually every one in Victoria) gets satisfaction out of producing art in order to make people feel foolish or like outsiders.

The best art reveals itself over time. Good art shouldn't be a one-note shtick.

But I acknowledge that there will always be those that think public sculpture can only be a "realistic" bronze statue of a person and that anything else is an abomination.


Rob - should there be a central place to show local art; a sort of permanent indoor/outdoor market, subsidized, as a showcase?

#12 Rob Randall

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Posted 21 January 2009 - 10:28 PM

Rob - should there be a central place to show local art; a sort of permanent indoor/outdoor market, subsidized, as a showcase?


Possibly, if we were as bold as Seattle and made a sculpture park which has proven to be popular with tourists and locals.

Then again, why just have art in a ghetto? Scatter it around, too.

#13 Ms. B. Havin

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Posted 21 January 2009 - 11:06 PM

Seattle's sculpture park has nothing to do with the city's municipal government - it is part of the Seattle Art Museum (SAM), a private undertaking. It is also definitely not a publicly juried public space - the pieces in the park were chosen by expert curators, as far as I know there was not a single committee meeting with public input or selection criteria, etc.

Look, on the question of public art ...where to start? For the record, I personally can't stand Mowry Baden's piece in front of the arena (G-Man is right about the scale, but I also think the sculpture is internally incoherent).

But aside from personally disliking it, I don't for a minute think that "the public" could have come up with anything better. Just take a look at that statue of Michael Williams (Swan's Hotel owner) on the boulevard on Wharf: bronze kitsch, imo. (Or that we might get an Emily Carr in bronze kitsch - that example is even worse than the Michael Williams one since Carr was so defiantly modernist.) Isn't that, however, exactly the sort of "art" that would get the most "votes," that many people would find the most pleasing?

Maybe they're right, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe a sculpture park (a la Seattle) with a bunch of "difficult" pieces is "elitist."


Ok, I'm an elitist. Give me a Richard Serra like the sculpture park's, any day.

I agree we should raise the bar here (imo Baden isn't good enough - pace, united efforts of the UVic Fine Arts faculty), the Gallant stuff is innocuously decorative for the most part (nothing that a good designer couldn't churn out), and spare me the bronze kitsch - which is what we'd probably get if the vox populi decided.

I read through the publicart.ca blog, especially the comments.

I'm dismayed by many of the comments - like, it's the council that's making these decisions, it's the council that's in cahoots with developers, it's the developers on council, blah blah blah. From what I can tell, council basically goes with what staff recommends. So if you really don't like what's being chosen, go to the various workshops and/or lobby against staff decisions.

I kind of wish all Canadians would watch the British sitcom "Yes, Minister," after which you have a much better idea of how British-influenced governments work. There are politicians, but they have relatively little say. It's the career bureaucrats, the staffers, who really run the show.
When you buy a game, you buy the rules. Play happens in the space between the rules.

#14 Rob Randall

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Posted 21 January 2009 - 11:53 PM

Victoria is known as city of artists. UVic has an Art Department, which, most likely, has very talented students. There a number of art galleries, art classes, societies, associations etc….and I am sure that we would have a lot of Works of Art to choose from.


And a lot of these people submitted to the Bastion RFP. No-one was excluded.

I do believe that the jury selection should be mixed up a bit. I know there are a few local cultural personalities that have never been on a jury but would be good to have.

The jury system is the best way of choosing public art. Having a fairly diverse jury is good, but doesn't necessarily have to include all professional arts people.

#15 Caramia

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Posted 22 January 2009 - 12:11 AM

A city that has done public art incredibly well is Dublin. The art there respects the diversity of style and period. There are bronze commemorative statues of famous Dubliners - and it is clear from the placement and scale of them their purpose - to commemorate. The statue of Michael Williams (by the way that was created without a penny from the city, it was pure commemoration by his friends) is an example of this, as is the queen in the harbour, and good old John A MacDonald by city hall.

There are full wall murals and mosaics. Victoria has a few of those, some better than others. The Mosaic the City project has done a great job of adding to our urban landscape that way.

When you walk through Dublin, there is more art at your feet embedded in the paving stones. I suppose our answer to this is Broad Street. note: the original vision for that got seriously muted by public sentiment. (having references to prostitution and drug use turned out to be too wild for the Victoria appetite)

Then there are metaphor pieces, and I don't see anything like them in Victoria - but they are my favourites. There was one I remember of a woman rising from the sidewalk between bicycle racks, half submerged. I think she was freedom or something. There is another called "Irish Life" which had a rider behind a couple of horses which looked like they were barely in control.

There is even the U2 wall which is a graffitti tribute and a major tourist attraction. Our trackside gallery on steroids.

Of course there is the modern art, and plenty of it. Personally I find the Dublin versions as ugly as the Victoria ones. An education is supposed to make them more beautiful, but I have an education in art history, and I still think they are ugly. Oh well. I guess I just am not one of the elite.

The art I find inspiring is art that is connected to the community from whence it came. The most incredible example of that is the memorial flame project.



The memorial flame project sits at the corner of what used to be the worst drug dealing intersection of Ireland, and possibly of Europe. I can't even describe conditions there, except to say that it took me about 4 minutes to be offered Lesquiti Island Weed just standing on the corner with a Canadian Flag on my jacket. Or maybe a better way to describe it is that the project commemorated over 80 children and teens who had died from heroin related causes in the four block neighbourhood over the last decade. The sculpture was made at the Firestation Art Studio very close to the area. The Firestation combines job training for youth and art studio in one building. The flame is lost wax casting. Each child from the neighbourhood was given a little ball of wax to roll and twist and shape and then add to the flame. So every living child had a piece of it that was theirs. On the day of the pour families came, bearing little gold or silver crosses that every Irish person seems to wear. The jewelry of the children who died was added to the metal. The flame is streaked with it throughout. On the day of the unveiling the kids from around sang a song they had made up about their neighbourhood. Shortly after the unveiling I came down to spend some time with the flame. There wasn't a drug dealer in sight.

Now THAT's public art.
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#16 Rob Randall

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Posted 22 January 2009 - 10:14 AM

I guess I just am not one of the elite.


Define "elite" for me, please.

Listen, I've been listening to complaints about the arena art for years. I'm not it's biggest fan--I think Baden's done better work. But it's not a bad piece. If anything, it's a bit traditional and conservative by modern standards (and his standards). Anyone that bothered to check out his retrospective at the AGGV a couple of years ago would have to concede he

The great thing about investing time in looking at modern art is that it builds up your visual literacy. That way, you develop the ability to criticize a work without resorting to simplistic cop-out phrases.

#17 G-Man

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Posted 22 January 2009 - 10:37 AM

While not an artist I have agree that allowing art to be voted on by the general public would not result in a large volume of glowing works.

The fact that we are still talking, positively or negatively about Baden's work by the arena shows that as a piece of art it is both effective and valid. It is the stuff that is so bland that no one notices that is really the problem.

You don't hear long discussions positive or negative about the whale wall, the fountain in the CRD square or the sealife thingy at Clover Point.

#18 Holden West

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Posted 22 January 2009 - 10:40 AM

The CRD fountain actually isn't public art--it's a "design feature" installed by the architect.

In fact, you can buy similar versions online.
"Beaver, ahoy!""The bridge is like a magnet, attracting both pedestrians and over 30,000 vehicles daily who enjoy the views of Victoria's harbour. The skyline may change, but "Big Blue" as some call it, will always be there."
-City of Victoria website, 2009

#19 Bernard

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Posted 22 January 2009 - 11:01 AM

The problem is that we do not have enough public art around - the more outdoor sculptures we had, the more we would see them as part of the cityscape. At the moment each piece feels like an awkward one off piece that does not mesh with the location where it is at.

Good public art draws people to look at it, to talk about it, to touch it and to even climb all over it. Bronze statues are the worst public art - they become pointless visual pollution. They are a hold over from an era when we did not have media to portray people regularly.

As to the public art that we have at the moment, specifically the work at the arena, I am do not hate it. I have also spent no time looking at it and considering it. My initial reaction is that it too small for the space where it is located, the plaza in front of the arena calls out for something much larger, but I suspect the money was not there for a large work.

The Bastion Square canoe I love.

How should we choose it? I think it has to be by the jury process. A public voting process is not going to end up with a result that works most of the time because there is such limited ability for the public to truly express their views - all there is is a vote. Better to allow for public written submissions on possible works and have the jury consider them.

#20 aastra

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Posted 22 January 2009 - 11:30 AM

Good public art draws people to look at it, to talk about it, to touch it and to even climb all over it. Bronze statues are the worst public art...


Literally hundreds of people stop and view the (Captain Cook) statue each day, to read the inscription, or to take a photograph, often with a member of their family standing next to the statue.


http://www.captainco...m/ccsu41170.htm

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