H20 centre wall in line for $200,000 artistic facelift

The city has doubled its budget to find an artist willing to create a mural to adorn the H2O aquatic centre.

The city has doubled its budget from $100,000 to $200,000 in order to find an artist willing to create a huge mural to adorn the side of the city’s H2O aquatic centre. But at least three members of city council are not happy about it.

“Two hundred-thousand dollars at this time of year, with the economy like it is, I find it obscene,” said Coun. Graeme James who, along with Mayor Sharon Shepherd and Coun. Charlie Hodge, voted against the plan.

According to city staff, the long-envisioned public art project, first thought of a year before the aquatic and fitness centre opened in 2008, has already been the subject of an unsuccessful search for an artist to create a mural to cover the blank wall of the building that faces Gordon Drive. That project originally had a budget of $100,000.

But after failing to find an “acceptable submission,” the city staff and the public art committee has brought the project back to council, looking for a work that has “a pertinent community based theme.”

While opposed to the project’s new cost, Hodge said as it is going to proceed anyway, so he would like to see local artists given an edge when it comes to the awarding of the commission.

In the past, the city has shied away from such a move when awarding public art commissions as it feels that could hurt local artists when they apply for commissions elsewhere.

But despite the huge budget jump, other councillors supported the revival of the project.

Coun. Luke Stack noted the large size of the work required and the fact it will be located in such a highly visible area. A great deal of traffic passes the H2O centre every day.

“It’s a beautiful location for substantial art,” he said.

Coun. Robert Hobson agreed, saying the currently blank wall “cries out for a mural.”

The mayor, who said she drives by it every day, said the wall is not as obtrusive as originally thought despite its size but she would like to see landscaping in front of it to soften its appearance.