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Campbell River council nixing roundabout art project an ’embarrassment’: arts council

An arts community representative is floored the City of Campbell River pulled the plug on an art installation at the Rockland roundabout on South Island Highway.

“I don’t have anything good to say about it, I can’t believe it happened actually,” Campbell River Arts Council Executive Director Ken Blackburn told Vista Radio.

Just as it was about to put out a call for artist proposals, city council suddenly cancelled the project last month based on a motion from Coun. Ron Kerr. Some councillors said it wasn’t a priority compared to other projects like lighting the sports fields.

Blackburn says the city was prepared to spend over $200,000 to a consultant to put something in the roundabout that “nobody wanted” in 2019 before going back to the drawing board and including the local arts community.

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“And then they suddenly said there’s no money for paying local people to do the same work? I think that’s a terrible message to send to the local arts/culture/heritage community – actually to the entire community of Campbell River. It’s an embarrassment.”

Blackburn says council suddenly changing its mind is “a little bit of politicking…it just doesn’t hold up to say that it’s not a priority.”

He says the roundabout is on a major entrance to the city with economic and tourism potential and the art would create an “amazing symbol and message of how progressive Campbell River is.”

With the project cancelled, staff told council they won’t be actively looking for grant funding, even though Coun. Colleen Evans said the project could very well qualify for a 100 per cent grant.

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Blackburn says they already told the city they were willing to work with the city to find grants. “It’s the city’s job to find that funding. It’s not the arts community’s to find it. However, we recognize that we’re partners with the city.”

“We’re more than happy to help them. But you can’t just cancel a project and then basically have it removed from the budget and then, suddenly say, well, go find grants. That’s cowardice.”

Blackburn would like to see the conversation about this project but “back on track.”

With work with Spirit Square and the cultural precinct on the cusp of what’s expected to be “hugely big tourist season,” Blackburn says they can’t focus on the roundabout at this point in time.

“This is a disappointing decision but we’re ready to keep moving forward. Onward and upwards.”

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