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Updated: Wed, 21 May 2014 00:27:17 GMT | By CBC News,

Calgary committee votes to spend less on public art




A giant blue ring on the overpass at Deerfoot Trail and 96th Avenue N.E. has caught the attention of drivers. 



A council committee voted Tuesday to make changes to Calgary's public art policy.

The city currently spends one per cent of the value of its capital projects on public art, but a committee voted to roll that back on major projects and cap the total on the biggest ones.


The one per cent target will remain in place for projects worth up to $50 million, then it will be half a per cent above that with the maximum topping out at $4 million.

That means for major projects like the West LRT, instead of $8 million of public art, there will be $4 million.


The current policy resulted in some controversial pieces, such as the $470,000 ring of blue steel at Deerfoot Trail and 96th Avenue N.E. called Travelling Light by the Berlin-based group Inges Idee.


After it was unveiled last year it drew criticism from many Calgarians, including Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

“I don't like it. I think it's awful. I understand that it's a work of engineering feat to balance it on its edge like that. I think it's terrible,” he said at the time.


On Tuesday, Nenshi said that other than Travelling Light, the city's public art policy has been effective.

"There's been 45 major public art projects since the policy went into place and one of them has been particularly controversial and probably 44 have had people who like them and people who don't like them. but that's part of art and I think that's a good thing."


More public input 


The committee also approved plans to give Calgarians more say on the panel that selects art projects.

Under the changes, members of the public will be given more say on what works are selected by an advisory panel and the amount of money that can be spent on public art would be capped.

Two councillors, Sean Chu and Ward Sutherland, voted against the changes saying they want less than the proposed amounts for public art.


Chu says when the city is cutting back on things like street cleaning, public art should fall off the priorities list.

"We should look after the core services first and you have extra money? Great, do some art, but not dedicate a certain amount of money for art. To me, that's not right, that's not common sense," said Chu.

Coun. Shane Keating says the changes are intended to maintain public confidence in the program.


“We just want to say, 'You know what? We really believe that we got value for the dollar regardless of what it looks like'... and we've had a number of these where it hasn't happened that way,” he said.

Public art has value and not everyone will like every piece - but the program must have most Calgarians' support for it to succeed, Keating said. 

 The amended policy will go to city council next week for final approval.

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