the list of conspicuous expenditures by the City of Ottawa,
otherwise known as wasting our tax dollars, comes the
latest mind-numbing, nonsensical and downright infuriating
revelation that the city paid $150,000 for a public art
installation at the corner of Trim and Watters Roads,
that in my most humble opinion, serves now useful or esthetic
purpose at all.
called "Erratic Field" and roughly speaking
it's a collection of 10 rusted, geometric shapes representing
boulders left behind after the last ice age.
your travels have taken you down Trim Road you may have
seen them on your left as you approach Watters.
I am not an arts critic, nor do I purport to be an art
expert. In fact, I have nothing against the artist himself,
who happens to be Shayne Dark from Harrington, Ontario
near Stratford. I have been to his website and I like
a number of his previously commissioned public pieces.
should also note that I have been a long-time supporter
of the arts community, and public funding of the arts
at all levels as an investment of our culture and society.
there is a time and a place for everything and not all
art is created equal, especially when trying to get money
out of the city for even the most worthy of community
projects is like trying to squeeze juice out of a lemon
that has been left out in the sun for a week.
the work itself. I am a huge fan of "interactive"
public art such as the piano sculpture outside the Shenkman
Arts Centre. They are fun and they inspire creativity.
There is nothing interactive about "Erratic Field",
unless you want to risk getting tetanus.
to the official description of the sculpture, the weathered
exterior is covered by a "rich purple brown patina",
which is artist talk for rust.
other reaction is that if you want to install a group
of boulders to represent the aftermath of the last ice
age, why not find 10 boulders. Mother Nature has always
been one of the most prolific artists of all-time. We
live on the edge of the Precambrian Shield for crying
out loud. There are boulders galore out there. And they're
my biggest pet peeve about the installation is the cost.
To my way of thinking it is just another example of how
screwed up this city's priorities are.
also have a personal bias. The Greater Orleans Canada
Day Celebration, of which I am chair, applied for a city
grant last fall to help pay for this year's event.
2014, we received $2,100. This year we received bupkis.
Why is that you ask? According to the letter we received
from the city, they were worried we were going to use
the money to pay off last year's deficit.
if they had of asked us for an explanation, or a clarification,
we would have explained to them our plans to pay down
the deficit before this year's event, none of which involved
using any grant money. But they never asked us for a clarification.
They simply rejected it out of hand.
other words, they don't have any money to help cover the
costs of the largest all-volunteer event in the community,
but they can spend $150,000 on an art installation that
serves no purpose whatsoever.
put that in perspective, $150,000 could pay for two very
nice playstructures. There are a group of parents in Chapel
Hill who have been trying to acquire funds to replace
a play structure that was removed years ago on Forest
have approached the city and have been told that the cupboard
is bare. Obviously, they looked in the wrong cupboard.
brings me back to "Erratic Field". You may be
asking how did it ever get approved. That's easy -- complacency.
It was a result of complacency on the part of taxpayers,
and the blind assumption that our elected officials are
watching out for these sort of things for us.
process was all very above board and included a public
open house in October 2013 where people could see the
five projects that made the short list and meet the artists
who designed them. I didn't go to the meeting, but I also
don't remember ever hearing about it, which is why I wasn't
there. So, I also don't know how many people did attend
assumption is that there weren't that many people there,
and those who did show up were relatively pleased with
what they saw. Since no one objected, it was allowed to
proceed without any interjection or influence on the part
of tcity officials.
hey, who can blame them, especially when you look at the
artist's rendition of the sculpture in its "natural"
environment. I've presented both the artist's rendition
and the actual installation as it appears today.
artist's rendition makes it look like it's in the middle
of a lush park. It's on the side of the road beside a
bus stop that doesn't even have a bench. The trees that
have been planted in the background will take 20 years
you're upset about this latest questionable use of your
tax dollars, when other projects like neighbourhood playstructures
go un-funded, I don't blame you and neither should anybody
if any elected official were to express dismay over your
outrage, I would question their judgement. Again, it's
about priorities. It's about keeping a close eye on the
public purse and ensuring that every expense makes sense,
or at least provides a useful service to their constituents.
public art installation at Trim and Watters does not pass
that litmus test. If nothing else it shows that some things
will never change no matter who is in charge, or words
wasted to assure the opposite.
you wish to comment on this or any other View Point column
please write to Fred Sherwin at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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