EDITORIAL: Power of public art

Public art can have a powerful effect on a community.

Public art can have a powerful effect on a community.

Just look at what Chemainus’ murals did for supporting the economy of that Vancouver Island town, or closer to home, the popularity of Romp on the shores of Okanagan Lake.

Or, if you’d like to stretch your memories a bit further back, there is little question that the controversy around Frank the Baggage Handler (and his involuntary castration) drew international attention for Penticton and the subject of public art.

At council Monday night, Robin Robertson, vice-chair of the Arts, Creative and Cultural Innovations Committee, pointed out the number of people taking pictures of themselves with Romp, then spreading them around the world through social media.

Definitely some positive image building for Penticton. So, it’s no wonder that city council backed the committee’s plan to lease five sculptures to use as public art.

This is a very positive move, but we would like to throw our own two cents into the discussion.

Let’s keep it as local as possible. An open call for artists is fine, but we should also ensure we do the best we can to support local artists, not as a restriction, but certainly Penticton and area sculptors should be given special consideration.

Second, the cultural history of area First Nations bands must be represented. We already have Kokanee/En-Tee-Tuek, created by Jon Hudson as part of the 2002 Sculpture Symposium, but for this new project we should look closer to home.

Okanagan Falls has the Salmon Chief, by Smoker Marchant, an Okanagan Nation member; perhaps a piece by Clint George for Penticton?

There are many, many factors to consider when choosing public art, but if Penticton is going to be spending $25,000 to lease sculptures, they should be as representative of local culture and creativity as possible.