Public art on display at Stuart Park in Kelowna.

Public art on display at Stuart Park in Kelowna.

Kelowna council: Challenges of being an art critic

City council grapples with how to define good and bad public art submissions.

Beauty, they say, is in the eye of the beholder.

That was clear Monday as Kelowna city council grappled with a staff proposal to fund a new temporary public art program.

With a budget of $15,000 for one installation this year and, in future years, $30,000 for two, the program was approved by council—but not without opposition.

When presented with an outline of the first temporary art project to be located in the city, two councillors objected, with one admitting she “just didn’t get it,” and the other saying as “guardians” of the public purse, council should have the final say on individual art projects.

Coun. Tracy Gray said she did not see how the proposed art project by South African artist Johann Wessels related to the city, while Coun. Brad Sieben wanted all city-funded art projects sent to council for approval.

The proposed project would locate items supposedly brought back to our time from the future around the city and prompt those who find them to go online to learn more about them.

Items given in the example presented to council included a fragment of a famous painting and what was described as ‘last known living tree branch.’

The success of the temporary public art project would be gauged by monitoring social media reaction, said a Kelowna Art Galley representative on hand. The art gallery would coordinate the program for the city.

But while other councillors and  Mayor Colin Basran said they liked the idea of a temporary art program in the city—regardless of whether they personally liked the specific art or not—Sieben said he was not willing to “write a blank cheque” for a program that may be unpopular with the public.

“We will have egg on our face if the public doesn’t like it,” he said.

But his colleague, Coun. Ryan Donn disagreed, saying to support public art is to support “hits and misses.”

City manager Ron Mattiussi said having a public art program of any sort is “not for the faint of heart,” pointing to one local example of controversial art: The Dolphins sculpture at the entrance to Waterfront Park.

He said while some people love it, he has also heard it ridiculed by others, with critics asking what dolphins have to do with Kelowna.

After an hour of discussion,council voted to fund the proposed temporary public art project this year.

If it’s a success, council would then support the $30,000 two-project-a-year art initiative.

“I think it’s a great way to animate our city, and this is the type of city we’ve been hearing that people want,” said Basran, noting while feelings about the art will be subjective, display of the pieces will be temporary.

Access to interactive art map

When it comes to public art in Kelowna, there’s an app for that.

Well, it’s more like a link to an interactive map on the city’s web page.

According to designer Jesse Shudiak, the map can be accessed from any mobile smartphone, tablet, laptop or desk computer simply by typing in the address or URL:  kelowna.ca/public-art/#map.

The map shows the locations of all public art in the city and when the corresponding number is clicked, more information is given including photos and links to the artists’ web sites.

The link is expected to go live next week.

Currently, there are 68 pieces of public art included on the map, spread across the city.

Shudiak said work has also been done looking at sending push notifications to the phones and tablets of people arriving in the city, so they will know about the map and the art and be able to use the  information while visiting Kelowna.

Kelowna Capital News