From the questionable giant blue ring to the contentious Bowfort Towers, the city’s beleaguered public art program is now being honoured as one of the nation’s “worst offenders” in wasting tax dollars.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation held its 20th annual Teddy Waste Awards this week, celebrating the best of the worst in government waste. Among other winners, including the $8.2 million Parliament Hill Rink installed temporarily to celebrate Canada 150, the City of Calgary’s “gaffe-prone” public art program was given a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Aaron Wudrick, CTF federal director, said Calgary is being singled out for more than a decade of waste on bungled projects stretching back to the inception of its public art policy in 2004.

“Art can be a wonderful thing, but Calgary’s long track record of expensive artistic flops highlights the perils of mixing art and government,” said Aaron Wudrick, CTF federal director. “We’re pleased the city is currently reviewing the policy, but it needs to be dumped.”

CTF pointed to a long list of public art that it called wasteful, including:

— Bearing, a $221,000 large metal ball and archway located at the Calgary Fire Department’s repair and maintenance facility

— Travelling Light (giant blue ring), a $470,000 giant blue circle on a bridge near the airport with two lampposts on top

— Forest Lawn Lift Station, a $246,000 wastewater station with an LED-light map blocking the city-view of nearby homes

— Bowfort Towers, a $500,000 sculpture of rock and rusted steel beams near Paskapoo Slopes sparked accusations of cultural insensitivity. It was this installation which finally led city council to put a hold on public art until the program is reviewed and brought back in the spring.

The Bowfort Towers as seen on the west end of Calgary.

The city’s Teddy Waste Award did not even mention last November’s controversy around Snapshots, where local artist Derek Besant used the work of other photographers without asking permission, and was paid $20,000.

The installation, which was removed from the 4th Street S.W. underpass downtown, blurred images formerly used as promotional photos by British comedians in a pamphlet for an Edinburgh comedy show.

The city said in an emailed statement that the public art review will go to committee March 7 and that Besant has not returned the $20,000 he was paid. No one was provided for an interview to answer more specific questions.

Requests for comment from Mayor Naheed Nenshi were also denied.

But Andy Hollingworth, one of …read more



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City of Calgary’s ‘gaffe-prone’ public art program gets life time achievement award for waste

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