Local art organizations say they aren’t happy with how the City of Campbell River went about selecting the art feature to be installed within the new roundabout on Highway 19A.
In an Aug. 20th letter to city council, Ken Blackburn with the Campbell River Arts Council said the process did not properly consult the local arts community.
“The Arts Council certainly has done that many times over the years, where we’ve put out an artist call, we solicit concepts and ideas, and then we have a committee look at them and decide what works best and we have it produced,” explained Blackburn.
But as he tells My Campbell River Now, “that’s not what was done in this case.” According to Blackburn, engineers who designed everything from the new curbs to the street to the roundabout itself actually went ahead and designed the selected art feature. It’s something Blackburn finds “clearly bypasses the local arts community.”
And while city staff did seek feedback last year on three design options, Blackburn noted that community participation was extremely low, with COVID-19 likely playing a factor. However, the City says the survey had participation from more than 1,300 residents.
“But seeking feedback on designs already selected is not consultation,” he said. “The result is a ‘tidal theme’ installation that is pedestrian, bland, weakly composed, and absolutely not representative of the thriving arts community of Campbell River. It is a poorly thought-through engineering add-on.”
For Blackburn, the new roundabout is a highly visible key entry point to town. With input from local artists, he thinks it’ll send a message as to the character of the community.
“Over the years, the Arts Council has been encouraging the city to pay attention to its infrastructure and the kind of messaging that we’re sending not just to tourists coming to town, but to people who are commuting on the highway coming into town every day,” Blackburn told our newsroom.
Together with Sara Lopez from the Campbell River Art Gallery, Heather Gordon Murphy of Rivercity Stage, and Patrons of the Arts, Blackburn pleaded with city council to cancel the new art feature’s installation and move to restart the process through local consultation.
“I’m asking the city to basically scrap the idea and let’s just reboot the process. Let’s start consulting the local arts community and design it ourselves right here in town,” Blackburn said.
He added, “It’s a great opportunity to use a highly visible location to what Campbell River’s all about. A creative, innovative, collaborative work within the community will send the right kind of signal.”
During their Tues., Sept 7th meeting, city council asked for a report summarizing the history, budget, and details of public consultation for the planned ‘tidal theme’ feature.