Everyone’s familiar with the old adage beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it seems Kelowna city councillors are reminded of it more frequently than most.
During a council meeting where a proposal to launch a $25,000 review of the city’s public art program was tabled, Mayor Sharon Shepherd called for a populist approach to the issue at hand in an attempt to nip the public’s animosity in the bud.
“I feel there’s something lacking from this (plan), and that’s input from the public,” said Shepherd, after learning about city staff’s proposal to hire a consultant to steer the public art program in a more organized direction.
“I’d like to know what they feel is successful…not that we will always choose something everyone likes.”
There are a number of galvanizing pieces within the city’s collection that local politicians still get an earful about, she said, and she’d rather get some feedback from the community on what they do and don’t like than repeatedly tread into the public’s bad books.
“We’re still getting criticized about the bear and the bear is a winner— thank goodness,” she said.
“But there are some that haven’t been winners.”
Earlier in the meeting Coun. Luke Stack asked about whether there should be some sort of retirement program for art that’s seen better days, and Shepherd grabbed onto that idea, pointing out that she “can tell you a few that should be retired.”
Council was told that the public will be involved with various parts of the process, although the master plan pitch at hand was only addressing the hiring of a consultant.
While the nature of art was a central theme of the master plan discussion, other councillors made a point to weigh in on the fact they believed that spending money on a consultant was an egregious waste in tighter times.
Coun. Graeme James said he felt the review—albeit requested by council during the budget process—is extravagant.
“You could add at least another $25,000 or $35,000 to this,” he said, of the plan that will be funded through the public art committee’s allotment.
“With the economy the way it is, I think this is totally extravagant and a terrible waste of money.”
Coun. Charlie Hodge chipped in that he thought that it would be more prudent to use the resources at hand. “I think we have an excellent committee, and I don’t think we need to go outside this committee,” he said.
A city staff member pointed out that the committee itself recommended that an outside consultant be pulled into the fray and in the end, the bulk of local politicians voted in favour of looking beyond its committee to get some direction on one of its most hotly debated budget items.