At first glance – especially during times when everyone is checking their spending and keeping a keen eye on the spending of government, the idea of spending $7,500 on an arts laureate – essentially an arts booster – in a community of some 18,000 might seem a bit of a non-starter.
But mayor Nils Jensen convinced his council to jump aboard and found funding through a variety of sources, including the community initiatives committee, the Oak Bay business improvement association and Oak Bay tourism and hand-picked Barbara Adams, who took on the task in January.
A former teacher, Oak Bay’s arts and culture ambassador has moved ahead full steam over the spring and suddenly art is popping up all over the municipality – and what a pleasure it is to see.
Adams’ vision includes five art spaces with some 20 other pieces scattered around the community and she is off to a great start with temporary installations by well-known artists Chris Paul, Nathan Scott and Illarian Gallant, all locals whose work can be found around the world.
Not only will the pieces of public art create conversation among residents, but they will add to the attraction of Oak Bay for other Greater Victoria residents and out-of-town visitors as well.
While at times public art can be controversial – who remembers the furor over artist Mowry Baden’s Pavilion, Rock and Shell when it was installed in front of the Save-on-Foods Memorial Arena in 2005? – it can also help build community by crossing socio-economic barriers and racial or religious stereotypes and allow us to share our cultural heritage and creativity.
A plus for our community is the interactive element the painted pianos will provide. Not only have they been decorated by students, but they will provide an outlet for everyone to let their inner artist shine.