Mayor's Minute

Mayor’s minute: Sculpting a Vibrant Downtown

May 17, 2018

Last week the City unveiled the second annual sculpture walk downtown and along the Okanagan Lake walkway. It has been awhile since we had a large display of public art and last year’s rendition was very well received. The program is based off a model used in Castlegar where the City leases the art for a year and then, at the end of the term, residents vote for their favorite piece which the City then purchases for permanent display. Now established, pieces of this art can be found in the community, local businesses and in the homes of residents.

While art is great for our community, individual pieces can be subjective and will not appeal to everyone. Perhaps there’s better agreement on what art does.  Art can evoke an emotion, change your perspective, make a statement, make you smile and add some color to our lives. I was surprized to learn of a study using 2016 data from Statistics Canada that pegged the economic impact of culture products eight times higher than sport industries with six times more workforce. 

I don’t like country music or the opera but I appreciate others do and they probably don’t like classic rock or hip hop. Just like some like sci-fi movies or horror while others like dramas and documentaries.  Whether it’s funnies in the newspaper, video on YouTube, TV, radio, or a poster/photo/print on a wall; art and culture is immersed into our daily lives.

I love watching people on the walkway engaging the art. You can see them pointing, perhaps turning their head sideways, and then some facial gestures as they try to figure out what the sculpture is or is trying to say. The best is when people interact with it and or take a picture alongside it.  I think the art and people’s interaction with it adds to the energy, vibrancy and charm of our community downtown.

I recently read some social media posts about our art unveiling, most very positive, but one comment asked about the costs for the art and then proposed to stop beautifying downtown and spend the money on infrastructure instead. If we look at downtown and the recent 300 block of Main Street, of the revitalization project, $1.7 Million is being spent on infrastructure while the remaining $480 thousand is being spent on beautification (wider sidewalks, street furniture, etc…) which has the property owners contributing $300 thousand towards the beautification. The City has invested around $12 Million downtown (with the vast majority of cost going towards infrastructure) over the past 5 years which has translated into over $47 Million of private investment coming downtown. 

Over the past few years the City has been spending 16-17 million strictly towards infrastructure. As we repair, restore or replace City assets, we still need to provide amenities, programs, and encourage diversity within the community. Council is always tasked with trying to find a balance to provide for the needs and concerns of 34,000 residents, who often differ from one another.

What is missing from City policy is for community philanthropy towards public art. Currently you can dedicate a park bench, picnic table, bike rack, or tree. It might be a nice lasting legacy to a loved one to have a piece of public art in their memory (unless his name was Frank and worked as a baggage handler).