New West approves funding for public art in Queen’s Park

The City of New Westminster will spend up to $100,000 to create public art in Queen’s Park.

City council recently supported a motion to increase the public art budget for the area around the future Sportsplex from $45,000 to $100,000. The additional funds will come out of the city’s public art reserve funds.

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Coun. Mary Trentadue, a member of the city’s public art advisory committee, said the committee recently discussed the idea of creating a public art piece next to the Sportsplex. She said the Sportsplex will be a very large building and will be located next to the skate park.

“The public art advisory committee felt it would be somewhat obvious just to put up a mural on that building, and perhaps something more significant should be considered, something that speaks to the precinct of the skateboard park and the Sportsplex,” she said.

Trentadue noted the public art advisory committee has an annual budget, but hasn’t spent any money this year.

“We felt this would be a reasonable way to contribute to a significant piece of public art in Queen’s Park that would honour all the work that has been done in this area,” she said.

Collen Ponzini, the city’s director of finance, said there is currently around $600,000 in the public art reserve fund.

Coun. Chuck Puchmayr questioned whether the city will “get double our bang for the buck” by doubling the mural budget.

Mayor Jonathan Cote said one of the features of the new Sportsplex is a big, blank wall – something that’s not generally friendly or inviting. He said the original thinking was the public art would go in that area.

Trentadue said the committee discussion the blank wall on the side of the Sportsplex, which led to the thought that something “more complex” than art on the wall could be considered – something that incorporates that space with other spaces in the area, and honours the setting.

“This is all in a beautiful park with lots of greenery,” she said. “What the committee was looking for was a bit more allowance to provide a proposal to an artist so that they can come back to us with the options that they see, that they can visualize in this space, without limiting it to ‘we need you to put something on that wall’. That’s where it has come from.”

Coun. Nadine Nakagawa said the location is “a fairly significant and busy area of the city” and it’s also a very beautiful area that has lots of public amenities.

“I suppose what I haven’t had an opportunity to have a conversation about is where art should go in the city, whether it should go in underserved areas, in areas that need more beautifying or if it should go in areas that are well-trafficked like Queen’s Park,” she said. “I haven’t quite resolved that question in my own mind.”

Nakagawa said she believes calls for art should align with the city’s strategic priorities, as well as its values around being a welcoming and inclusive community and addressing social equity and inclusion, reconciliation.

“I find that’s really missing from the call for art. I am wondering if we could in some way bump that up, along with the additional funding,” she said. “I would really hope that art would contribute to achieving those strategic goals and giving more opportunity for artists that perhaps have had less opportunity in the past.”

Trentadue said she can report back to the public art advisory committee about the idea of incorporating more of council’s strategic goals into the public art policy. She said the committee has also had conversations about where public art should occur in New West.

“Queen’s Park is not the place that would be on the top of our list because of the things that are in Queen’s Park. But because of our capital program, we are having public art attached to the Sportsplex,” she said. “The public art advisory committee has a number of other locations all across the city where we would like to see public art, and having it parsed out throughout the city is very important to the committee.”

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