Vancouver’s Board of Parks and Recreation, which is composed of elected commissioners, is considering funding an installation created by Lead Pencil Studio for a park on the city’s east side, bordering neighbouring city of Burnaby.
There is concern that public money is being spent recklessly at a time when Vancouver is facing transit cuts (if a referendum fails to pass), a persistent and growing homeless population, and its standing as the world’s second-least affordable city to live in.
Tara Carman, writing in the Vancouver Sun: (complete article)
Staff are recommending approval of the $450,000 installation, entitled Home and Away, designed by Lead Pencil Studio. Artists drew inspiration for the sculpture from three historic structures Hastings Park is known for: the old bleachers and scoreboards at Empire Stadium, a constructed ski run built there in the 1950s and Playland’s signature wooden roller coaster. The bleachers, with the “home” side in blue and the “away” side in yellow, will be about 15 metres high, 30 metres long and hold a maximum of 150 people, according to a park board staff report. It will be located at the northwest corner of Empire Fields and visible from Hastings Street.
Five days before the Board was to vote on funding the proposed work, I wrote them:
Dear Commissioners,Much as I enjoy public art—my MA thesis was on public art in Vancouver, I produced a 23-episode series of short films on public art, and I’m giving a talk at the Harmony Arts Festival this summer in West Vancouver on public art—I do not support the proposed work for Hastings Park.My reasons:1. Public perception. In a time when this city is unaffordable to many, not only to potential home-buyers but to those who struggle to make enough to pay the rent, this expenditure is going to be seen as a shocking waste of public monies.2. Too large, too imposing, and potentially too dangerous, even with guardrails. With the vertical insertions of the PNE’s Playland rides next to the park, another vertical structure, playful as it is, is too much for one area.3. The Park Board could still assign those funds to art, but in a more low-key, spread-out series of projects, not necessarily installations of permanence.4. What if the Park Board were to set aside these funds toward a major and exciting project to be built in a few years—for instance, something by Antony Gormley, or another artist of international calibre?