They say don’t look a gift horse in the mouth but herons, apparently, are a different story.
Kelowna city council opted out of a chance to acquire a free Jock Hidebrand sculpture assessed at $175,000 Monday afternoon, deferring to the judgement of their public art committee.
The committee, earlier, decided the cost associated with installing and maintaining the heron sculpture was too high.
Also the piece didn’t fit their criteria of public art because it was constructed for the Centuria development on Gordon and Bernard Avenue and not “conceived with a certain area in mind.”
Their stance was taken into account, but city staff still recommended politicians approve taking on the statue which would be made available by the building’s developer in exchange for a tax receipt.
They also proposed that it should be funded through the committee’s budget, regardless of their negative evaluation.
That, in the end, didn’t sit well with the bulk of councillors.
Coun. Luke Stack said it troubled him greatly that the city has a public art committee, yet they don’t want to observe their opinion and still spend their budget.
Of the same mind was Coun. Michele Rule, who expressed concern over the mindset of the committee, which had its financial allotment halved during the last budget process.
“Quite frankly, we decimated funding and morale of the public arts committee, so to get a piece of art that doesn’t fit within their planning doesn’t make sense to me,” she said.
Mayor Sharon Shepherd and Couns. Graeme James, Andre Blanleil and Charlie Hodge each articulated their individual disagreement with the committee’s decision on how the art fit into the overall collection.
Hodge pointed out the committee also shouldn’t feel insulted by a difference of opinion, but he couldn’t see his way to approving such a high expenditure.
“I would love us to have this piece of art work, but I can’t for the life of me comprehend why it would take $45,000 to $65,000 to install it,” Hodge said.
In the end, councillors decided to not pursue the piece, but not before bandying about the idea of taking funding areas other than the committee’s allotment. That also failed to gain consensus.
As for the artist himself, Hildebrand said he was disappointed to hear the sculpture he made years ago won’t be installed in his hometown, especially considering it’s been sitting in storage.
But, he’s not surprised by the public art committee’s decision.
“I think the public art committee has some internal difficulties with some of these things,” said Hildebrand, noting the heron theme would be applicable to numerous spots within the city.
“I think that they have become so bureaucratic in many ways, that they’ve tied themselves up in rather small knots.”
That said, Kelowna’s loss will likely be West Kelowna’s gain, which Hildebrand said was fitting considering he once lived there, too.
Weeks ago its politicians approved the proposal to set aside just over $25,000 to install the statue, said West Kelowna communications supervisor Kirsten Jones.
It’s unclear why there is a disparity between the two city’s installation cost estimates.
Jones said West Kelowna decided to install the statue in Westbank Centre Park, if the developer chose to divert the statue to their community.