Occasionally, recognized artists and others from away will be joining us to share their thoughts and impressions about Public Art outside Vancouver.
In 2012, Joyce Rautenberg joined the City of Vancouver’s Public Art team as an intern from the University of Manitoba. The focus of her time was on citizen exploration of public art through the development of several walking tours. Following that she embarked on a research trip through Germany and Switzerland. below she shares a mini-commentary that she wrote for one of her classes talking about public art financing.
This summer, I got the opportunity to work in the City of Vancouver’s Public Art department. It was a very interesting experience, which got me thinking about how other Canadian cities fund and manage their public art programming. I had heard from multiple sources before moving to Winnipeg that my future city had a “thriving” art scene and I was lucky to be a part of a “growing” arts community. This year, as I walked around and observed my new surroundings, I became more aware of the lack of public art – no doubt influenced by my summer in Vancouver. Now, many people may ask “what’s the big deal? Who really cares about public art?”. But would you say the same thing about New York’s Statue of Liberty public monument that draws in hordes of tourists each year? Or about the iconic murals in San Francisco’s Mission District? Public art does matter. It is used as a tool for placemaking, and can often establish a city’s identity. A city’s image is inevitably linked to the aesthetic quality of the place. Why not improve this in Winnipeg?
This was once again brought to light when I recently read an article on CBC’s website, where the headline announced that the Winnipeg Arts Council was seeking more public art funding . According to the article, the City’s art funding lies in the middle in terms of Canadian cities’ public art spending. As well, changes to culture plan (which was adopted in 2004) included more public art funding – yet this has still not been ratified or accepted by Council. As I thought of my summer internship, I wondered if there could be an opportunity to engage the private sector as a means for greater public art investment in Winnipeg. Could this also be a way for Winnipeg developers to shake their less-than-desirable reputation?
As planners often refer to ‘precedents’ and ‘best practices’, I started researching and came across two examples. The City of Vancouver was obviously at the forefront of my mind, and I questioned if their policies could apply in a Winnipeg context. According to the City’s website, “private sector re-zonings greater than 100,000 square feet are required to contribute $1.81 per buildable foot to a public art process approved by the City”. Developers have three options to fulfill this contribution. First, they can participate in funding a work of public art and engage in a juried art process, which would comply with City standards and be subject to a review by the Public Art Committee. Second, the full amount of the required public art contribution can go to the City’s Public Art program if the developer is not interested in engaging with public art processes. Finally, they can choose a mixed approach where 60% of the funds go to creating artwork (according to City standards) and 40% goes to the City’s Public Art Reserve. However, these are currently being reformulated as the City of Vancouver continues to explore further financing mechanisms. This could include creating a public art fund where developers pay into directly, or encourage donations via tax receipt incentives.
The City of Toronto is the second example, in which the municipality has a Percent for Art policy. This is very similar to Vancouver’s Public Art program’s policy, but the funding comes from 1% of gross construction costs of each significant development. This is also managed by planners at the City where staff actively work with the private sector to find ways to contribute via “development review, Official Plan amendments and re-zonings”. The three options for developers to contribute are nearly exactly the same as the City of Vancouver. It appears that funding for the City of Toronto’s public art initiatives is higher, due to collecting 1% of construction costs of any significant development as opposed to charging a dollar amount per foot in a specific large-scale re-zoning project.
Developer contributions are not a new concept. * Patrick Dugan discusses a variety of contributions developers can make as a means to “mitigate adverse impacts of development facilities”. He includes direct construction, where developers construct public facilities that meet municipal regulations, and financing agreements, where developers give money to cities for construction/developing public facilities. These mechanisms have clearly been utilized by both the City of Toronto and the City of Vancouver as a means to gain funding for public art initiatives. Dugan emphasizes that this may be a “way to ensure facilities are built-in a timely manner” in light of budget cuts and inadequate funding.
Could this happen in Winnipeg? Although the Arts Council website states that Winnipeg does not have a developer contribution policy to ensure that public art is not influenced by developers, this could be a way for the Arts Council to get the increased funding that the City Council is not providing. Although I do not believe this would happen (at least not anytime soon) in Winnipeg, it would be a great opportunity for planners to engage the private sector to create something aesthetically beneficial for the community. That is what art has always done best – break down barriers between the private and public realms to stimulate discussions. Let’s keep this going.
* Dugan, P. (2012). Developer Financing in Public Finance for Planners. Everett: Western Planners