Banff council has given the green light to spend $26,000 on a temporary public art installation.
On Monday (March 28), council voted 5-2 to release funds for nine original art images at three locations, but not before raising concerns about vandalism and that it’s not a permanent installation.
Councillor Stavros Karlos, who voted against the move, raised concerns about vandalism and the fact the Banff’s Community Art Committee (BCAC) is not promoting something more permanent.
“Personally, I believe public art should be of a more permanent nature,” he said. “Past experience has proven time and time again that really nice things get wrecked.”
Coun. Leslie Taylor echoed those concerns.
“We’re spending $26,000 on something that will have a maximum lifespan of four years?” she said.
The project will involve the digital reproduction and installation of original pieces of art at three Town facilities – the Rec Centre, the alley behind Town Hall and the washroom at the corner of Banff Avenue and Wolf Street.
The committee is planning to commission up to three images per location, with each piece to be displayed for up to a period of six months.
But, council has stipulated BCAC must come back to council with its recommendation on the type of installation before proceeding.
The images cannot be re-used after they are taken down, so the committee is exploring other options to either archive the reproduced artwork or create a smaller duplicate for a permanent collection.
“We wanted something to show for the program in the end. We didn’t want to roll them up and throw them in the garbage” said Susan Webb, a Town of Banff representative on the committee.
“This is a way they thought they could be somewhat experimental, but didn’t want to create something that people would hate that would be there permanently.”
Town planner Keith Batstone said BCAC recognizes this is a unique approach for Banff, noting the best information suggests the artwork in an outside environment will last two-to- three years.
“We’re proposing going in a different direction we’ve never gone before,” he said. “It’s time to embark on a different approach to public art. There’s a desire to recognize and celebrate more artists and more varied types of art.”
Mayor Karen Sorensen voiced her support. “I think its an innovate new approach.”
The artwork for Town Hall and the public washroom will be commissioned through a nation-wide call to artists, while the pieces for the Banff Recreation Centre will be put out to local artists.
A jury will oversee the selection process and in addition, the community will choose one image through an online voting system. The first phase of images at each location should be installed by July 1.
Along with Karlos, Taylor also expressed concern about vandalism.
She said the public washroom site at the corner of Banff Avenue and Wolf Street was a main concern.
“It’s at a height from the ground that’s easily reachable by vandals, and we have had a problem with tagging in town,” she said.
But Batstone said the history of vandalism in town has been considered.
“There’s very little evidence that confirms public art is a desirable canvas for vandals. Good public art just doesn’t draw the ire of vandals,” he said.
“Ultimately, it’s semi-permanent art and the committee deemed it appropriate to take this risk.”
Coun. Grant Canning expressed concern about the back alley location behind Town Hall.
“I see an issue with vandals on the back of Town Hall,” he said. “If the point is to share this for visitors and the world, I don’t see Town Hall as a good location.”
Council contributes $10,000 a year to the public art reserve. Currently, the reserve holds a balance of $68,141, not including the 2011 contribution.
BCAC hopes to have a plan for use of the remaining funds by the end of June.