Laureate illuminates the arts in one-year term

Public art bloomed in Oak Bay last summer with hopes of permanency

Oak Bay artist Barbara Adams is wrapping up her first term as the community’s arts laureate.

Oak Bay artist Barbara Adams is wrapping up her first term as the community’s arts laureate.

With more than a year under her smock as Oak Bay’s inaugural arts laureate, Barbara Adams is impressed withe community’s reception of arts in the community and is “hoping it will carry on.”

Mayor Nils Jensen sought an arts laureate to champion the district’s talents in 2012, and in fall 2013 Adams took on the task.

She’s just had a three-month extension to her term as the new council considers terms of reference and appointment of the second Oak Bay arts laureate.

“I would take an extension if that’s what council wanted,” Adams says. “You can start something and then someone can come in and add their ideas and it can grow … it’s not finite.”

What it boils down to is the job of adding culture to the community.

She got right down to business in her tenure, adding seven pieces of art to the community last summer. Three public pianos and four pieces of art on loan by artists spread throughout the community for the summer months mark a highlight of her tenure.

The pianos, painted by well-known artists Crystal Heath, Deryk Houston and Robert Amos, received much acclaim with many a photo and comment sent to Oak Bay News and Adams herself.

“I had hundreds of positive comments and still meet people on the street who say we loved the pianos,” Adams said.

They were, however, problematic for some residents bothered by late night or constant playing, at times poorly, in a residential setting.

“I think we took under advisement everybody’s ideas, and if the pianos were to appear again we’d take into consideration all the things people talked about,” Adams said. “When you’re doing the first thing you listen and learn.”

The four works of art on loan were actually five as bronze artist Nathan Scott installed two: a bronze eagle perched at municipal hall and a sculpted dog sleeping under an adjacent bench. Illarion Gallant’s Bullrushes graced a space on Beach Drive at the foot of Landsdowne Road and a piece of Gracepoint memorabilia took its place on the beach near the marina.

The fourth work, a sculpture titled Salish Sea by Coast Salish artist Chris Paul, remains in place at the Oak Bay Marina where Adams hopes to see it stay.

“I’m hoping to get permission from council to look for a way to make that a permanent part of Oak Bay,” she said.

If successful, it would achieve the first of her envisioned 26 art sites in the district. Six of them being “art spaces”.

These spaces would include some form of visual art, an area of seating (akin to Martin Chad Lay’s stonework benches in northern B.C.) and an empty space.

“There could be plein air painters, or dancers … a gathering spot for any arts to be done,” Adams said. “The marina parking lot was one of the places I felt should be one of the spaces.”

She’s had many conversations sharing her vision, and expects to have more in hopes of nailing down some of these art spaces.

“For the first year I did a lot. It has made people in Oak Bay aware that public art can be a good thing and can be an enjoyable part of their surroundings,” Adams said. “I’m pleased with how the year has gone.”