Two more sculptures were donated to Oak Bay this week, bringing the total to four donations so far this year.
Council accepted the pieces which are both from the 2019 ArtsAlive public art exhibition. The pieces came with a suggested location, however, council amended the recommendation and reserved the right to have the public art advisory committee help decide where they should go.
It’s part of an influx of public art in Oak Bay and brings the total number of permanent outdoor pieces to 10. That’s up from hardly any prior to 2015, said Mayor Kevin Murdoch
“It’s a fantastic problem to have,” Murdoch said.
It adds up to 20 when including the 10 annual ArtsAlive pieces on exhibit, not including the biggest mural in the region, Parade of Play, on the back of the public works building.
“[Before ArtsAlive] there was not one piece, besides the piece hanging inside the recreation centre,” said Oak Bay arts laureate Barbara Adams. “The idea was to build a legacy of public art in Oak Bay for future generations to enjoy. We had no idea in starting this that the public would really like it, and it’s been very successful.”
The donations started with an anonymous patron who was inspired by the Stanley Park mermaid. They thought the tidal rock along Beach Drive between Haynes and Queens’ Park could have something similar but with an Oak Bay twist.
That was denied last year. Since then, though, there’s been an influx of sculptures donated. So many, council has asked for a plan.
“Do we need a policy for these donations is a question that has come up,” Murdoch said. “The responsible thing is to look at every piece whether we have a policy or not, they are individual pieces.”
As Coun. Hazel Braithwaite noted, while the sculptures are built for durability, council does retain the right to remove or move the sculptures as seen fit.
The newest two pieces are Jelly, by Nathan Smith, which was exhibited at Oak Bay Village at Hampshire Road, and Portal, by Heather Passmore, which was at Willows Beach. These are in addition to the recent donation of the 25,000-pound marble sculpture Soul of a Wolf (inspired by Takaya) to be installed at Cattle Point (pending final details). Earlier this year the Winds of Time, a 2019 ArtsAlive sculpture, was accepted as an anonymous donation to go into King George Terrace.
But it’s not just the donations that are popping up. In 2019, to the ‘M’akhotso sculpture (Mother of Peace), a 2018 ArtsAlive sculpture by Linda Lindsay, that was purchased to permanently honour the late Nils Jensen at Monterey Recreation after his 2019 death.
Plus, there are the first five people’s choice winners of the annual ArtsAlive exhibition which are purchased by the district. The latest is the 2019 winner Harmony Humpback, installed on the sidewalk of Beach Drive at the parking lot entrance to Willows Park.
“When we started this about eight years ago, we had 28 locations identified, in principal, as locations for permanent art,” Adams said. “But we needed public input. The public needs to own this. That’s been a big part of it.”
It’s only speculation, but as council deliberated on Monday night, there is a question as to how many pieces are appropriate for McNeill Bay or Willows Beach. It was suggested in the council report that Portal be installed on Willows again, this time further along the Esplanade closer to Cattle Point.
These final two months of 2020 are Adams’ last as Oak Bay’s first arts laureate. The district will put out a call for a new arts laureate soon. It’s a volunteer position that can sometimes feel like a job, a worthy passion project, Adams said.
One thing Adams’ would like to see ArtsAlive tackle that it hasn’t is the addition of some performance spaces.
“Creating some performance spaces was part of the vision from the beginning,” Adams said. “We have had to put it on the back burner to focus on other things.”
Adams envisioned a circular bench area near a sculpture that people could sit at while musicians performed. It’s a vision shared with the mayor.
“I would like to see [dedicated] public space for performing arts,” Murdoch said.
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