February 28th, 2024

Public art fund needs boost after capital projects

By COLLIN GALLANT on February 15, 2022.

Workers install the roof of a shade canopy over the third-base bleachers at Athletic Park in Medicine Hat on Feb. 9, 2022. The $3-million project is one of two dozen grant-funded construction projects over the last year that will require the city to earmark money for new public art as per city policy.--News Photo Collin Gallant


A slew of municipal construction projects in 2021 will require a new cash infusion to the city’s public art fund, as well as a need to figure out a new process for how to spend it.

Longstanding city policy set aside 1.5 per cent of most new building projects to fund art installations or adornments at structures.

Last year the city accessed more than $20 million in grants meant to stimulate the local economy during the pandemic, though maintenance projects and some others are exempt.

The additions however, including expansion of city office building, a shade canopy at Athletic Park and other substantially “new construction” projects, will mean the city will transfer $175,000 to a fund set aside for art projects.

Last month council’s public services committee heard the funds would move forward for work in 2023, but requires a new model for art projects.

In late 2020, council overhauled its advisory board system, conglomerating most responsibility in the “Community Vibrancy Board,” made up of public members, and did away with others or downgraded their authority.

That group included the public art advisory committee that would evaluate sites and jury submissions.

Administrators told the committee on Jan. 24 that they would be bringing both a budget amendment and changes to how public art projects are considered.

Currently, budget amounts or sites that are relatively small can see money pooled for projects at alternate sites.

Staff may ask council to consider allowing greater leeway to conglomerate funds and projects going forward.

The selection process may also be changed.

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