By Collin Gallant on March 6, 2018.
City council has rejected a committee recommendation to buy two granite buffalo to accent the entrance at the Canalta Centre.
Members voted 6-3 against the $28,000 purchase that represented the remainder of the public art budget for the now three-year-old arena.
Instead, the decision is to earmark the money to augment the budget of other art projects in the future.
“I love public art and feel it’s an important part of the community… but I won’t support this,” said Coun. Kris Samraj, who argued the main purchase of a $72,000 James Marshall mural for the lobby is sufficient.
Other councillors and Mayor Ted Clugston said the public would see the purchase as city hall looking for ways to spend up to maximum budget on projects.
Councillors Julie Friesen, Jim Turner and Robert Dumanowski voted against the cancellation, saying a cancellation devalued the work of a volunteer selection committee, and it was “too late in the game,” according to Turner.
Friesen said the policy is in place to depoliticize art purchases, but that she’s willing to discuss what to do when major pieces are less than full budget.
“The better option is to look at the policy and see if this is how we want to continue buying art,” she said.
Last week, council’s public services committee heard the pair of stone, three-foot-tall statues by northern Alberta artist Stewart Stienhauer, were selected by the volunteer Public Art Committee, which is made up of local artists.
That group twice put out tenders seeking proposals from artists over two years, but did not receive appropriate submissions. Eventually chose the statues from existing pieces on the art market and chose the buffalo in part because of their place in the Cree Saamis origin story.
“I don’t think they are site specific, and don’t work well in front of a massive building,” said Samraj, who felt money the remaining $28,000 from the $100,000 art budget for the building was too small to garner much attention.
“I think they (the selection committee) weren’t dealt a very good hand.”
Coun. Phil Turnbull said there should be not disrespect for the committee, but they felt the perception is that the city looks for ways to spend money.
“The public sees that we had $100,000 to spend, we got a mural for $72,000 and now we’re running around trying to spent $28,000,” he said.
Coun. Jamie McIntosh said “it’s fantastic art, but it’s an issue of public perception.”
Chief administrator Merete Heggelund said the money can be allocated according to council’s decision, but the item represented the final outstanding budget item for the Canalta construction, which was largely completed in mid 2015.
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