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LETTER: Takaya sculpture puts selection process in question

Having viewed Oak Bay’s webpage devoted to the Takaya Reflections project, and having watched their video of the effort to honour the tragic story of Takaya, I agree that much of the impetus around the idea for this commission is lovely, and the art piece seems decently considered.

I do wonder, however, what a proper public competition, rather than private commission tied to a donation, might yield of greater public value. Certainly, council understands already that providing a public location and council endorsement of a piece is a highly valuable commission for any artist, particularly a commission of this scale to memorialize Takaya, who has captured nationwide and even global interest.

There are times when the context requires that our actions be informed by larger circles than our local one, and in my view, this site and commission fall into that category. It is, however, clear that council disagrees with my assessment since the video features the mayor and arts laureate advocating for this particular piece. In awarding such a valuable commission through a non-competitive process, council opens itself up to accusations of cronyism.

As the website makes clear, however, they have already decided on a pre-selected process, so they must have very compelling reasons for preferring a non-public process. I hope they will explain these at the next council meeting. While I appreciate the budgetary considerations, the question seems to come down to either a public process or a sculpture. I do have to wonder whether if this endeavor is worth doing, is it not worth doing in the most upfront way possible, one that will ensure any money spent gets a return of the highest public value? One also never knows where supporting donations may come from if the process were a more public one.

I also wonder what, in the fullness of council’s plan, they intend to do in addition to clearing invasives from that area in order to benefit the ecosystem of the park. No matter our endeavor, we should strive to ensure all our cultural investments seek to give more back than they take from the environment. For example, what will council do to ensure that the additional foot traffic – as people are encouraged to interact, look, climb and yell through the sculpture – is highly regulated so as not to harm the sensitive ecology? Will there be an elevated trail to keep people off the meadow? How will council ensure that the rare plants are monitored and are not being trampled? What kinds of ongoing maintenance and restoration is council agreeing to budget for, as the sculpture impacts the area over time (rather than just for the ongoing maintenance of the art piece itself)? I look forward to hearing council’s answers to these concerns.

Kristina Leach

Oak Bay