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New direction for public art

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Policy Review

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New direction for public art

What's new?

Updated February 12, 2020

The City of Calgary is currently seeking feedback from the artistic community and the public at large asking the question: What should be included in a public art program? The information will be added to past engagement feedback to build the themes, considerations, and requirements for an upcoming Request for Proposals (RFP) to move the program to an external organization. This work will be led by a consultant.

Feedback sessions will be held in late February and March 2020 and you will be invited to participate. To join the conversation, email publicart@calgary.ca​.

Frequently asked questions

Is The City of Calgary public art program shutting down?
No. Council’s direction is to move to an external model, but no changes to the public art policy or discussion of ending the program have been part of the direction. Other external models in the public art industry the consultant will review include: the Edmonton Arts Council, the Winnipeg Arts Council and 4Culture, the cultural funding agency for King County, Washington, USA.

Is the percent for art policy going away?
No. The percentage for public art allocation remains the same: 1% for the portion of eligible project capital costs over $1 million up to $50 million; and 0.5% for the portion over $50 million. Ineligible costs include land purchase, rolling stock, portable equipment and maintenance budgets.

What is different with pooled percent for art funding?
Previously, percent for art funding was generally required to be used at the sites of new infrastructure projects. Going forward, every four years, The City of Calgary will work across the corporation to identify eligible capital funding and put one percent in a pool for public art and investment in community priorities. The percent for art funding comes from capital investments, so this would fluctuate with each budget cycle. Pooling funds into a corporate public art budget means there will be better accountability, transparency and flexibility in how public art is implemented across the city. It will also allow the program to be more strategic when deciding things like the location of art and will mean more investment in the local arts sector.

What brought about these changes?
In a confidential Notice of Motion on Sept 30, 2019, Council directed Administration to hire a third-party consultant to review the public art program and examine options for moving it outside The City. The consultant’s findings were shared publicly at Council on November 25, 2019. The recommendation was to move the public art program to an existing external organization. It was also recommended that The City of Calgary initiate a competitive process to select the best organization that could deliver the public art program.

Why this recommendation?
An external model allows for a more nimble approach to delivering public art to Calgarians, including a simplified procurement process, more flexibility to hire a diversity of artists, and access to more communications channels and tools.

Moving the program to an external organization provides opportunities to supplement the capital dollars with private funds from grants and donations, reducing the burden on tax payers.

What happens next?
Further investigation is required to identify the requirements and work through the details of an external model. These details will be worked through by the consultant, in consultation with Administration, members of Council and members of the local arts community. Then, the elements of the RFP will be brought to Council in late Q1 2020 for consideration.

What does “elements of the RFP” mean? 
By “elements of the RFP,” we mean the themes, considerations, and requirements that define what should be included in a public art program. This would include themes such as: “What is required to deliver a public art project?” and “What is required to manage and conserve a public art collection?”

How does this impact the engagement with the arts community that has been done over last few years?
The insight and feedback we’ve gathered from the arts community is extremely valuable and will continue to be used to help shape the public art program.

The future of public art in Calgary

  • Administration has created a pooled capital program, which will put all monies (1%) funding public art into one fund.
  • Community needs will now be the priority in decision making about public art.
    • This means a more holistic and equitable approach to public art projects across Calgary that don't have to be tied to new infrastructure.
  • Every four years, we will work across the corporation to identify eligible capital funding and put one percent in a pool for public art and investment in community priorities.
  • Why this delivers on your tax investment:
    • Pooling funds into a corporate public art budget means there will be better accountability, transparency and flexibility in how public art is implemented across your city​.
    • It will also allow us to be more strategic when deciding things like the location of art and will mean more investment in the local arts sector.
  • It's important to note that there will be no change or additional impact to capital project budgets. This is simply a better, more transparent way to manage the allocated Public Art funding.

Working with you

  • Our goal is to regain trust and credibility with you. Public art will be involving citizen stakeholders in the development of our new work plan.
  • We'll continue to work with the arts community to understand and improve areas related to:
    • governance
    • procurement
    • communications
    • engagement

We will engage the arts community going forward through working-group sessions and informal meetings on these areas.

Prioritize investment in Calgary's creative economy

  • We've heard you and understand that investing in the local creative economy should be a priority outcome for your public art program.
  • We're going to focus on tying public art activities to expanding the local creative economy and arts sector including:
    • partnering with local institutions and organizations,
    • pursuing procurement strategies that remove barriers for local, regional and national artists, and
    • increasing the number of diverse applicants to future public art projects and programs.
  • We still recognize the importance of bringing international talent to Calgary and must ensure that Calgary artists have opportunities to work internationally, as well. However, we'll remain accountable to national and international trade agreements and support our local artistic industry at home.

These focus areas support our new governance and oversight structure that help us meet our corporate priorities. We're looking for opportunities to involve you through the public art process and improve communication so you can understand and see the value of where your investment is going.

The work isn't over yet. Were committed to building a public art program that is reflective of Calgary's needs, accessible to all and makes your life better, every day.

Read our current Public Art Policy.

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