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Nelson installs sculpture gallery downtown

Bill Metcalfe
By Bill Metcalfe
May 16th, 2013

The City of Nelson has installed six sculptures in the downtown core as part of its efforts to increase the presence of public art.

The city purchased QR, created by Winlaw’s Carl Schlichting and now situated permanently in the Railtown area, from the artist for $10,000. The other five sculptures have been leased from the artists for $2000 each.

The leased sculptures will be replaced with new art works each year, creating a rotating gallery downtown. Works will be selected from annual entries in the Castlegar Sculpturewalk, now in its fourth year. 

This year’s  sculptures are pictured in the gallery below.

Chosen by a committee

David Dobie, Stephanie Fischer, and John Palaozzi— a committee of the Nelson’s cultural development commission—chose this year’s sculptures with the assistance of cultural development officer Joy Barrett.

Barrett is also the executive director of Castlegar Sculpturewalk.

Seventy-five percent of the lease fee goes to the artists, and the rest to Castlegar Sculpturewalk for operating costs.

The public requested more public art

Barrett says the public requested more public art during input sessions for the city’s Sustainable Downtown and Waterfront Master Plan. The funding for the sculptures came from reserve funds set aside to implement that plan.

Keeping tourists here longer

“Its really part and parcel of our downtown revitalization plans,” Councillor Donna Macdonald told The Nelson Daily. “We want to enhance the people’s experience of our downtown, keep them there longer, keep them shopping and enjoying, so I think the addition of the sculptures can only help that.”

Thinking regionally

Barrett favours a regional approach to arts and culture because tourists attracted by the arts will be more likely to come here and stay longer if there is a variety of attractions throughout the area.  “I think this is really exciting that the seed for this was planted in Castlegar and has grown into a successful sculpture walk there. There is also interest in Rossland, Trail and Kaslo. We are stronger when we act as a region.”

Love-hate

Asked what kind of reaction the sculptures have been getting so far, Barrett said, “There is mixed reaction on QR. It is a really a love-hate piece. The younger generation thinks it is super cool and some of the older generation not so much. We figured that would happen. That’s what art does— it creates a dialogue and it is nice to have a bit of controversy there.”

Barrett says the other pieces are not so divisive. “I was out there putting them up with Public Works and people were thrilled, I had a couple of people come up to me and say its about time we had some public art in the downtown.”

The heron sculpture: it’s complicated

The heron sculpture installed last fall at the waterfront near the playing fields has been controversial, both for its artistic merit and because the process of procuring it was not as clear as for the new downtown sculptures.  Asked about that, Barrett declined to comment.

“There are different opinions on that,” Macdonald told The Nelson Daily. “Essentially what happened is the opportunity to get that sculpture came up quickly and we had to make a decision quickly, and so I was asked by council to take it to the cultural development commission.

“I provided the information then and asked for informal feedback, and I felt there were enough people there who were enthusiastic about it that I could go back to council and say go ahead.

“Other people said that was not a complete enough process and it was not formal enough. So it was a tension between needing to move quickly and having a formal process. As a result we realized that we need to develop a process for receiving gifts.”

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