Let's Talk Public Art

Written by Chris Van Lierop

Today I wanted to talk about public art. In June, the City of Kawartha Lakes approved a policy for the approval, ownership, and maintenance of public art, something that had been lacking in their policies. Along with a new art strategy, loudly supported by our city councilor Doug Elmslie, the City of Kawartha Lakes allocated a small budget for the purchase of public art and a small budget for the maintenance of this art. This is a big step for the city and one that is welcomed in our town. The City’s inventory of public art currently consists of 5 pieces of art stretched throughout our large area and at least 2 artifacts.  

As home to many artists, Fenelon Falls has been talking about and looking at the placement of public art. We have made some proposals to the city, but with no formal policy, it has been hard to get approval to place art on city property.  Well, not anymore! 

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If you’ve ever been to Haliburton, you might have noticed that public art is something that has been on the top of their mind for years. In 2001, Haliburton opened the Haliburton Sculpture forest, with 3 sculptures. The forest that runs through Glebe park has views over the river and now consists of 34 sculptures and a new campus for the School of Art + Design for Fleming College. It’s a great trail that brings tourists from all over and exposure to many artists.

In Elora, the Elora Arts Council started their public art display by putting out a request to artists for 15 pieces of art to display throughout the area. The pieces of art were displayed in public places. Rather than a small town having to invest heavily (and likely without the resources) in art, Elora purchased 1 piece of permanent display art and erected multiple permanent sites that could host a rotating exhibit of art. The pieces of art were displayed on consignment to the town and were available to purchase by anyone walking by. Each year there is a call out to artists for submissions to place on the permanent sites, guaranteeing a new and interesting walk around town each year. Now there’s thinking outside the box!

In Fenelon we’re talking about new murals; we’ve placed steel banners by Christina Handley along the bridge into town and now we’re talking of the possibility for art installations throughout town. Maybe we’ll pursue a strategy that has been successful in another town. The city has paved our way for a process to get approval to put these pieces of art in town, now bring on the art!  

What would you like to see and where would you like to see it?

Chris