In an “unusual move” Oak Bay approved shifting funds in a bid to buy the Salish Sea sculpture.
“It’s certainly adding to our artistic character,” said mayor Nils Jensen. “I’d like to see a program where we as a community acquire public art. We’re seeing that in many communities throughout British Columbia, a focus on art and culture as well as recreation. I think its a very positive trend.”
Normally, surpluses and deficits across the board contribute to the overall municipal budget. Monday night council made an exception.
Thanks to a boon of filming this year, the 2015 culture operating budget expects a $30,857 surplus that will fund the final $4,600 needed to purchase the Salish Sea. Oak Bay will also shift $15,000 to the community Public Art Fund.
“I think this is an excellent use of this money. We were blessed with lots of filming,” Jensen said, adding the sculpture walk this summer brought in tourists and shoppers.
“It energized our community. It really adds to the quality of life.”
Coun. Eric Zhelka said he hoped to see the decision made closer to budget discussions, when grants are handed out and projects get the nod or the noose.
“I’m a bit uncomfortable moving forward with a process like this at this time,” said Zhelka, who went on to be the only council member to oppose the final motion.
Coun. Kevin Murdoch agreed his first reaction was concern over shifting that amount but was willing to do it “this year uniquely” noting staff and the arts laureate are still creating a public art policy.
It was also a special case as they officially added the culture title to the Parks and Recreation portfolio.
“This is an unusual circumstance,” said Coun. Tara Ney.
“It’s an appropriate move to help kickstart this program and give it a good strong foundation to move forward.”
That sentiment was echoed by Coun. Hazel Braithwaite who wondered aloud whether the Entrance Park whale bones sculpture still on loan from this summer, could be next.
“(The public art policy) will come forward from our arts laureate and our cultural department in 2016,” Jensen said. “That will formalize how we go about acquiring public art amongst other things. We do have a policy to require or add art to new public buildings, or significant renovations … It’s a matter of looking beyond our buildings.”
The Salish Sea sculpture adjacent to the Oak Bay Marina first went up on loan by artist Chris Paul in 2014 during the first summer art installation created by arts laureate Barbara Adams.
The net cost of the piece is $23,600, after a GST rebate. The municipality had already committed $9,300, donations from the community added up to $9,700, leaving the $4,600 required to pay the artist.
Adams said she’ll seek grants to fulfill her vision of a performance area adjacent to the Salish Sea sculpture.
Council sees value of arts program
Council voiced value Monday night to the arts program created by arts laureate Barbara Adams.
“I’ve seen that in my travels in Europe where some communities have long walkways that are dotted with public artwork,” said Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen. “It is a good way to get people out of their houses and into the community and enjoy nature and the art.”
The expanded summer art program, set to embark on a third year in 2016, includes a series of painted pianos that highlighted for Coun. Michelle Kirby the impact the project has on the community.
Each pleasant evening of the summer, while walking her dog, Kirby noted a group gathered. She and others engaged, they sat to chat and listen to a gentleman play the piano at Cattle Point – enjoying nature.
“(The pianos) have increased the health of our community… energizing people in conversations they wouldn’t normally have,” Kirby said. “It livens all of us.”