The Arts Council of Ladysmith and District has been given $20,000 by the town to help develop a broad-based public art strategy which could possibly guide future decisions related to installations and donated works.
“Initially this would be a focus on more of the art that would be built into a new development or park,” said Director of Parks and Recreation Clayton Postings at a recent city council meeting.
“We also want to make sure this is not closed and it can expand to what the community is looking for, so that’s why we looked to the Arts Council to help lead us down that path.”
Development of a strategy for public art, some examples being murals, carvings or other modern abstract interpretations, was a recommendation that emerged from the Parks and Recreation Master Plan adopted in 2016.
Specific mention was made in both the plan and recent staff report of a partnership between the Arts Council, Stz’uminus First Nation, the Chamber of Commerce, Ladysmith Downtown Business Association and other “appropriate organizations” with an interest in developing the strategy.
The community is also expected to be consulted as the vision for the document begins to take shape.
Mayor Aaron Stone said there is nothing that “puts shackles on what the public arts strategy might look like” and it’s up to the community to decide.
“I think that is what should dictate what the public art strategy looks like is what the engagement looks like,” Stone said.
“For some communities it may be more visual; I have all the faith in the world in the group at the Arts Council that if they can tie in anything sensory that goes beyond visual that they will do so.”
When the draft plan comes back to council it will include an inventory of the town’s existing public art, a process for accepting legacy gifts, a definition of ‘public art’ and possible next steps such as a ongoing long-term budget for carrying out the strategy.
“A lot of public arts strategies are broad in nature but they allow the community to be guided,” Postings said.
“In the past we’ve had donations to town for public art and this would allow us to develop a policy or strategy of how we deal with those donations.”
One of those is an impressive collection of 30 pastel paintings donated by the sister of the late Rev. Julian North.
It was the first art collected ever received by the town and is presently being kept in the basement of the Frank Jameson Community Centre due to lack of space.
“Storage is a problem and I think we will find storage somewhere that is air conditioned and safe for those paintings,” said the Art Council’s Kathy Holmes.
Much of the conversation at council focused on a more concrete policy for accepting, archiving and displaying donated works of art.
“We don’t have a public arts strategy so when we’re faced with dealing with gifts like Julian North we struggled with it,” said Councillor Rob Hutchins.
“In the lack of the policy we can’t deal with the the nuts and bolts of where we store this….you should have a strategy that says this is where you’re going to focus on as a community.”
There was also some mention around the council table of examples of public art in other communities such as Victoria where there is an interactive tree that elicits different colourful reactions based on voices and sounds.
“When you say art it’s just not a picture on a wall, it covers music, sculpture and a really broad range and that’s what we’re looking at for the city is a broad range of art, not just the gallery and where we can take it,” Holmes added.