By Lethbridge Herald on February 6, 2020.
While the City of Lethbridge through the Public Art Committee has funded several large pieces of public art and possesses quite a valuable institutional art collection, there are currently not a lot of opportunities for the public to engage with these taxpayer-owned art pieces, admitted community art and culture manager Jillian Bracken.
“There are a lot of objects that could be shown, but there are not a lot of locations to exhibit them,” Bracken told city council during Monday’s Community Issues Committee meeting. “The valuable pieces in the collection — and there are a handful of valuable pieces — should probably be in a vault at the Galt Museum. They are significant works of art that have value, and I don’t think we have the kind of facility that’s appropriate to display those pieces at this point in time. Managing collections is a really challenging thing, because you have to have a program that allows for the proper placement and care of those art works.”
Bracken mentioned a specific work by nationally famous artist Paul-Émile Borduas which is part of the City’s $582,000 Buchanan collection as a specific example. Bracken said the piece had an appraised value of $54,000. She said security issues precluded putting such pieces on full-time display, but she hoped a new digital website the Public Art Committee is contemplating will allow specific works from the collection to be viewed online eventually.
Mayor Chris Spearman felt such a website would go a long way toward helping community-engagement efforts around art, and hoped the committee was also contemplating doing something along the same line to further publicize and engage the community around public artworks already out on display in various quarters of the city.
“In some cases it would be nice where you could almost have an app or something on your phone that says go to this location and see this piece,” suggested Spearman. “If people were aware of what the public art was, and could see it and be reminded all the time, I think they would value it more. So if there is any way to communicate that in the future, and I am excited you might have a webpage about the public art, certainly making the general population more aware it, I think will enhance the support for public art.”
Bracken said her committee would love to be more proactive in that regard, but had limited funds to administer such programs at this time.
“I think its a real frustrating challenge for the committee because we would like to have that community engagement and education piece,” she said. “It’s critical to a strong program. It’s just we have limited administrative resources to manage that kind of program. As time goes on, we’re getting more and more pieces in place to do that work.”
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