Public Art Policy gaining ground
By Oona Woods
Whistler's Public Art Policy is gradually taking a concrete shape with the introduction of a brochure to explains the strategy to the public.
Run by the municipal Parks and Recreation Department, the policy of introducing art in a local context is ongoing. The brochure is slated for release next month, to coincide with Whistler's entry into the Communities in Bloom program which looks at the general habitat of communities and judges them aesthetically.
"We basically want to enhance public open space," says Denise Cook from the Parks Department.
"We want to put art into everyday life. We also want to promote our artists and encourage national and international artists to come here. It's about making people think and looking at things from a different point of view and providing a real sense of Whistler."
One project in the works at the moment that encompasses the public art ideal is the Village Park paving plan.
"We ran a snowflake workshop back at the end of February-early March," explains Cook. "The public came and worked with artists on snowflake shapes. These will be sandblast in glass and set in the pavement. The turn out was great and people were very positive about the experience."
Another project on the boil right now is the construction of a skateboard park.
"We've just finished with junior council and one of the participants made a very interesting presentation for the skateboard park. What they would like to see, and this is kicking off now so everyone's pretty excited, is a street park. This means setting up elements of the street to skate off of, like stairs. As yet we're not sure what the final designs will look like but they are meeting about it now. They will also be consulting the high school. We need public involvement and input from the users."
Cook says the process of ensuring public input is absolutely essential to the projects.
"We can't be seen to be selecting art for the public. It's the public's art. We have a really good process in place so it all goes smoothly. We try to keep it quite fair."
To this end the program looks to the Public Art Committee to act as a kind of jury.
"It is made up of local people, artists, developers, landscape architects, architects, gallery owners and members of the public," says Cook.
The Public Art Program is also involved in Whistler's Village Enhancement Strategy. This project seeks to "revitalize the spirit of Whistler Village," and covers accessibility, display and improvement issues, as well as art. Proposed public art in this context includes an information kiosk, a way-finding system and integrated site furnishings.
"If we're going to have an information kiosk we may as well pay an artist to work on it so it will look interesting," says Cook.
In addition to an information kiosk the municipality is also considering food vendor kiosks or carts as part of the village revitalization plan.
The Public Art Committee is also trying to reach out to developers to encourage them to include public art in their constructions.
"The Hyatt and The Chateau have both expressed an interest," says Cook. "We're here to help them with the process."