On Nenshi, public art and bullshit.

Public art in Calgary is back in the news again. This is not surprising as the public arts program in Calgary is nothing less than an embarrassing and expensive catastrophe. Countless pieces of grossly overpriced and ugly “art” are commissioned from artists all over the world (rarely local) and placed in locations where few people can see and admire them (if indeed there is anything to be admired).

Every year we see an explosion as one wretched piece of expensive public art hits the news and every year Nenshi pays lip service to reforming the system while not actually doing anything about it.

It is time that more than words are applied to this terrible program. With the tens of millions spent, Calgary could indeed be on its way to being an arts center worthy of visiting to see the displays. Instead the arts are generally an embarrassment.

Nenshi has moved on into blatant bullshit territory in his defense of the latest art scandal in Calgary. At first Nenshi called critics of the piece a lynch mob. Nenshi then spoke of how they consulted natives and implied that this was native inspired art. Today Nenshi is claiming that the piece has utterly nothing to do with natives. Nenshi is tying himself into knots as he trips over bullshit of his own fabrication as he tries to do everything possible to maintain Calgary’s public arts program without changing it.

Shane Keating and Sean Chu have put forward a motion to suspend funding on arts until a proper system can be built.  The Mayor has signed on to this motion as well but it will take follow through in order to make change. 

The Mayor used the word “tweak” when speaking of changing the policy. It needs a hell of a lot more than that.

Its election season folks. There is no better time to pressure candidates to do the right thing. We know Nenshi wont change anything, but with the right set of councilors the system can be changed despite the Mayor’s objections.

Ask your candidates where they stand on Calgary’s public arts policy and vote appropriately.

Otherwise, we will see these annual, expensive embarrassments continue.

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I came! I saw! It sucked!

While outrage over one horrific public art project or another has become something of an annual tradition in Calgary, Mayor Nenshi still doggedly denies that anything is wrong with the public art policy in the city. What would all those filthy taxpayers know about art anyway? How dare they question how city hall spends their money!

Nenshi likened critics of the latest arts abomination to a “lynch mob”.

Acclaimed Blackfoot artist Adrian Stimson took issue to this but then again, what would he know about Blackfoot inspired art? Can’t he just bow down to the wisdom of the handpicked city committees who choose these fine “arts” projects? No wonder he earned Nenshi’s insults.

 

Nenshi expanded to point out how it is “dangerous” to make judgements on something that hasn’t been “seen” or experienced.

OK. I went and saw and experienced the $500,000 “Bowfort Towers” for myself this evening.

The only thing that was dangerous was getting even close to the ridiculously placed display. It is set between two busy roads where vehicles are whizzing by at upwards of 100 kph as they approach an underpass. Hardly a nice spot for a person to pause and reflect on the piece of “art” that costed as much as an average city house does.

As can be seen below, I paused and reflected on the piece.

I gazed. I contemplated. I meditated. I came to a conclusion.

This piece of very expensive “art” is a turd that can’t be polished. Its is simplistic. It is terribly placed. It is aesthetically unappealing and it is apparently rather insulting to local First Nations. This was an utter waste of half a million dollars while most Calgarians are trying to recover from a recession.

Video of my visit can be found below.

Look, most people are not opposed to all public art. We are tired of “art” that is expensive, poorly placed and to be frank, damned ugly.

We have multiple pieces of art that we paid for that we cant even access as they were built in city industrial sites. We have a blue ring that is a national embarrassment. We have a silver ball that nearly lit a person on fire. The list goes on and on and on.

The policy is broken and Nenshi and his little “arts” crowd had better come to grips with this. Taxpayers are tired of being insulted and talked down to when they question the merit of their precious dollars being spent on art where the word “shit” is a generous description.

The backlash will grow if we don’t change this ridiculous policy soon. Fear city councilors who want to dramatically cut all forms of public art? Well I assure you, you will only empower those councilors when you deny that there is a problem and continue to defend this abhorrent waste of tax dollars.

There are many models in countless cities around the world that produce far better public art than what Calgary is generating. It is time that we emulated them rather than cling to this broken model that only produces crap.

Otherwise, get used to “lynch mobs”.

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