Tofino mulls public art policy

Tofino will prepare a public art policy to help avoid hullabaloos like the one sparked by the Weeping Cedar Woman statue.

Coun. Cathy Thicke brought the motion forward at a recent council meeting and said a public art policy would ease discussions surrounding the acquisition of public art.

She also noted the district’s Arts and Culture Master Plan, adopted in December, recommends establishing a public art policy.

“On account of those two things I think it’s appropriate now to consider the public art policy and that we put some funding towards it because I don’t believe it is within the staff capacity to undertake this,” she said.

“I recognize that it’s a little bit of a chicken and egg scenario it’s not a perfect world perhaps it would have been best if this had been developed last year but we’re a community of 1,876 people with a small staff and budget and we’re working really hard to do things right but it doesn’t always work out perfectly.”

Council voted to have staff prepare a draft policy for council’s consideration but balked at hiring a consultant to do the work.

Thicke’s motion had suggested the district allocate up to $5,000 towards creating the policy.

“I don’t believe that it will take anywhere near that amount but I just wanted to put a round number there for consideration,” she said.

Coun. Duncan McMaster supported developing a public art policy but doubted $5,000 would be needed.

He said he had reviewed various public art policies used by communities throughout Canada and the United States and he believed all were within Tofino’s internal capacity.

 â€œI don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that 90 per cent of them are all the same so to pay $5,000 for a cut and paste job…I realize staff are busy but I’d like to think there was enough interested councillors or individuals that might be prepared to take this on,” he said.

Coun. Dorothy Baert suggested the district could draw from the expertise within Tofino’s community but cautioned that developing the policy may be beyond the volunteer sector’s scope.

Coun. Al Anderson said he needed more information before voting on any allocation of funding including an examination of how the policy would fit with other district policies.

He noted a public art policy might not exclusively deal with sculptures like the Weeping Cedar Woman but also live performances and other artistic endeavors.

“I do want to move on this but there are a couple things I’d like to further explore,” he said.

Osborne suggested council could give staff the go ahead to begin working on a policy and remove the $5,000 allocation from the motion.

“I feel like there’s general consensus that ‘yes’ council wishes to move ahead with developing a public art policy and I think we should get that underway today,” she said. “I hear the conversation about determining how that can be done and sources of funding for that or whether any staff resources exist for that.”

Council agreed to approve the motion without the funding allocation and district CAO Bob MacPherson said staff would begin crafting the policy and bring a report back to council if any additional resources are needed.

Earlier in the meeting Tofino local Menno van Barneveld presented as a delegation regarding the potential public art policy.

Van Barneveld recently spoke out against the district’s actions surrounding the potential acquisition of the Weeping Cedar Woman statue and he stressed to council that public art should go through a legitimate public consultation process.  

“There are many creative people and local artists that aren’t members of art societies and organizations that should be able to voice their opinion,” he said. “The citizens of this community should have first hand involvement in the public art approval process, not just a small group of friends should decide how this town is decorated.”

His presentation included examples of public art in other communities some popular and some not.

He cited a Traveling Light sculpture in Calgary, which was selected by a citizen-panel and cost the city about $471,000 but has since become unpopular with citizens including Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi.  

Van Barneveld said music is a “universal art form” and should be included in the realm of public art.

He requested council kick off a fundraiser and allocate funding towards bringing the band Sick Of It All to Tofino; he showed a music video for the band’s song District during the meeting.  

He also requested council send a letter to the Westerly News because he believes locals who come forward to present to council get “smeared” by the local reporter.

Council did not make motions regarding either of these requests but received van Barneveld’s presentation as information.

reporter@westerlynews.ca