Awards Night November 5th.

Join us for our 2016 Awards Gala evening at Chances Casino, where we will be announcing the winner of this year’s People’s Choice award in addition to other prizes. Tickets are $50 (including a buffet dinner) and can be purchased online.

 

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And….. you still have a few days to apply for the 2017 SculptureWalk:

http://www.sculpturewalkcastlegar.com/call-for-entries/

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How Kaslo’s Public Art Policy Came to Be

If you experience a frisson of visceral pleasure whenever you encounter the phrase “public policy” or the word “governance,” then today we have the blogpost for you. Kaslo can modestly claim to be the smallest village in British Columbia to possess a Public Art Policy (please contact us if you wish to contest this), and given that apart from our four war memorials, the Village possesses only two pieces of public art (see our Inventory of Public Art in Kaslo), we can also boast the highest art policy-to-actual-art ratio (or as Albertans might say, hat-to-cattle ratio) of any jurisdiction anywhere.

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Here, then, is how our policy came to be.

In the spring of 2014, we (D. Borsos and D. Jackson) discovered from an item in the Valley Voice‘s coverage of the Village of Kaslo’s council minutes that Kaslo did not have a public art policy, and that this was impeding the village’s ability to acquire public art. After brief consultation with the village’s CAO, we volunteered to write such a policy for the Village of Kaslo, and the CAO agreed.

We looked online for other small communities’ public art policies which could serve as models for Kaslo’s.  Finding nowhere as small as Kaslo with a policy of this kind, we chose policies from three somewhat larger places that we could adapt to Kaslo’s population of 2,500 (village and surrounding area). These places were Gibsons, B.C. Canada (pop. 4,100), Nelson, B.C., Canada (population 10,000), and Cairns, Australia (pop. 151,000).  We then culled ideas and language from each of these to create an initial draft policy for Kaslo.

We thank Gibsons, Nelson,  and Cairns for the use of their excellent material and the inspiration it provided. Thanks also to Lynda Lafleur, then Northwest Regional Liaison for the Columbia Basin Trust, and Joy Barrett, Cultural Development Officer for Nelson B.C. Both these people were very helpful with their time and suggestions as to the initial design of our public art policy.

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Designing the Policy

The next step was to use the rough draft as a basis for eliciting input from the community, and to create a process for getting that input. We identified the following priorities:

1. The process should be inclusive, thorough and as fair as possible.  We steered cleer of the community meeting format, because in our experience too many people would not attend; of those who did, a handful of outspoken people would be likely to dominate.  Therefore we decided to interview people one and two at a time, so that everyone could speak freely.

2. We should ask a broad range of questions to gather as much information as possible from participants.  We wanted to gain a comprehensive sense of what Kaslo’s existing public art means to the village’s  residents, and what kinds of public art they would like to see (or not) in the future. Another aim was to invite people to consider more generally the various roles that public art can play in enhancing our community.

3. We should include as many of the key stakeholders in Kaslo’s arts and cultural community as possible.  Of the 59 people or groups we approached, 55 were more than willing to be interviewed. (Note: we will explore the question of who is a stakeholder in a future post.)

4. We should take as much time as needed for each interview.  Initially we planned for each interview to take 20 minutes, but some were as long as three hours, which attests to the level of interest we encountered.  We thank everyone who we intewrviewed for their generosity with their time.

5. We should follow a timeline.  The project began in March 2014; interviews began in April, and in early July we made a presentation to Kaslo Village Council to inform them how the project was coming along and when we could present the draft policy to them for final acceptance. In early September, we presented the policy and guidelines to Council, along with recommended names for the Public Art Advisory Committee (see below). Council accepted the policy and appointed the recommended people to the newly-created committee.

We stayed in communication with the CAO throughout this time, and we believe the process went more smoothly as a result.

Choosing the Public Art Advisory Committee

From the beginning, our rough draft policy stipulated that council appoint a Public Art Advisory Committee, made up of local residents and, as required by Council, one council appointee.  We asked each person we interviewed who they would like to see on such a committee. A number of people suggested that key arts and cultural groups should be invited to each appoint a committee member representing that group. Most people, however, named individuals who they felt would do a good job.

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After completing the interviews, we reviewed the list of recommended names from various perspectives:  gender, age, experience in the arts, work as an artist, and other relevant skills.  With these in mind, we assembled a list of five names to recommend to Council. In asking the five if they were willing, we also asked each of them, individually, if they could happily work with the rest of the committee. All of them said yes. We went to these lengths in order to maximize the Public Art Advisory Committee’s long-term chances of success.

Following the first meeting of the committee, we formally concluded our association with the project.   We offered to discuss with them any specific issues that might arise pertaining to the work we had done, but beyond that,  the policy and committee were now under the auspices of the Village of Kaslo CAO and Council. (Since then, just for the record, we have both joined the committee, which is now known as KPASAC–the Kaslo Public Art Select Advisory Committee.)

To see the Village’s Public Art Policy, please click here.

The value(s) of public art…

Some pieces of public art go unnoticed except by a few sharp-eyed people who are looking for what is different or unique about a place. The value of a public art installation, whether it is stationary or mobile, permanent or short-lived, historically significant or of-the- moment, reflects the character of a place and is hard to quantify in terms of economic value. Culturally or socially it may hold much greater value than a dollar sign would imply. These things help to tie a community together and foster a sense of identity.

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Labyrinth, St. Mark’s Anglican Church, 601 5th Street, Kaslo, BC. Photo by Deb Borsos.

One way public art can create value is when an audience watches or even participates in it being made. This has happened each May since 2014 at Kaslo’s MayDays Logger Sports arena, where celebrity chainsaw carver Ryan Cook has worked/performed with enthusiastic audiences. His first work, in 2014, was Kaslo’s Protectors, a pair of ospreys perched atop a pedestal with a tree spirit carved in the post, appropriate to our area and now located downtown, on Water Street, on the edge of Kootenay Lake. In addition to entertaining and educating audiences while being carved, Kaslo’s Protectors now enriches visitors’ visual experience as they explore the village. Cook’s work gains value from being donated to the village by LoggerSports, associated with Kaslo’s tradition of forestry: not the first sector you think of when public art is considered, but a significant part of what makes up the culture of Kaslo and area.

Does public art always have to be serious? Heck no. Sometimes, what becomes endearing and enduring about a piece of artwork, what makes it part of the community, is unexpected additions…

The ospreys of  Kaslo’s Protectors have shown an astounding ability to  keep track of holidays and special events! They have appeared dressed up for Christmas, New Years, Valentine’s Day, May Days, and most recently, on Labour Day in acknowledgement of workers around the globe and specifically Kaslo’s Village Crew.

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Kaslo’s Protectors (Ospreys and Tree Spirit), Water Street, Kaslo, BC. The fine porint at the top of the sign says, “Ospreys & Tree Spirit wish Kaslo’s Public Works Crew a Happy Labour Day.”  Photo copyright E. Fry.

Mostly, public art is found in larger centres with bigger populations and a larger tax base to support such things.  That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be found elsewhere and help to support smaller centres as well as adding to the character of a small town. Revelstoke, BC,  just a few hours up the winding road from Kaslo, features a magnificent sculpture of a grizzly bear mother and cub at the entrance to the town. Since its installation, hundreds upon hundreds of visitors to Revelstoke have stopped to have their photos taken beside it, and by so doing have created lasting memories for people far beyond those of Revelstoke. It is one more feature the town has to offer its visitors to stay, explore, and perhaps return in future.

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Bears, Revelstoke, BC. Photo courtesy of http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMBQHC_Female_Grizzly_and_Cub_Revelstoke_British_Columbia

 

Kaslo’s Maypole Mural

One of Kaslo’s most striking and beloved artworks is the Maypole Mural, on the west wall of Kaslo Community Pharmacy on 4th Street. We are very fortunate that three of the mural’s creators have just supplied us with a treasure trove of information and photos re. how the mural came about.

The year was 2003. Ursula Ringwald, then on the board of the Kaslo Area Youth Centre (KAYC), learned of a Columbia Basin Trust grant aimed at encouraging young and elderly people to work together using art as a bridge. Ursula’s daughter, Miriam, writes: “That was the key piece to this whole thing…  We, the youth, got together and interviewed a selection of seniors in Kaslo, asking them stories about growing up in Kaslo, etc. That is how the idea of the maypole came to be the main focus of the mural as many of them had danced in the May Days celebration themselves.  We took the stories and with them my brother Arin put together the design.”  (Note: for more on the importance of maypoles in Kaslo’s history, watch for our blog of September 21, 2016 on this site.)

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Some of the crew before beginning work. left to right: Tyler Toews, Steven Skolka, Carolyn Wood, Miriam (Mim) Ringwald (now Mills), Ursula Ringwald and Arin Ringwald.  Photo courtesy Arin Ringwald.

Arin Ringwald, who had already decided to pursue a career in the arts, adds: “After securing $10,000 funding, we used a large portion of the money to hire two budding professional muralists to lead the way and get some mentoring out of it: Steven Skolka and Tyler Toews, who still operate Canadian Murals (www.canadianmurals.com). I created the design and rounded up a few volunteers for the production part of the work: my mom Ursula, my sister Miriam, her friend Carolyn Wood, and a Daniel Vetrov.”

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Left to right: Steven Skolka, Tyler Toews, unknown child, Arin Ringwald (front), Carolyn Wood (back), Ursula Ringwald (below). Photo courtesy Arin Ringwald.

Ursula adds other names to the list of painters: Phyllis Margolin (now passed away), Alexandra Dunnett, and Dana Bennett. (If you know of anyone else, readers, please let us know.)

Miriam continues: “Once Arin, with Steven and Tyler, had put together the design, we let the artists do the detail work and the rest of us helped by painting by numbers, so we didn’t mess anything important up.”

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Left to right: Unknown (bending over), Tyler Toews (green shirt), Steven Skolka (no shirt), Miriam Ringwald (grey tank top), Arin Ringwald (white shirt). Photo courtesy Arin Ringwald

Arin Ringwald has since gone on to become a professional designer, and you can find his work at www.aringwald.com.  We’ll let him conclude our story: “Everyone involved or around during the creation of that mural seems to continually be amazed it never got vandalized. That it made it this long is I think beyond anything I expected…  Over the years I’ve had a lot of positive comments about how it brightened up and added to that little corner of Kaslo. Personally I’ve always been slightly ashamed of it because I’m just hard on myself as an artist and there’s a ton of things in it that are quite rough in regards to how I’d like them to have come out. And so in a weird round-about way, it’s helped me to appreciate not being so hard on myself; when people mention it, they seem to genuinely appreciate it, and that lets me relax and accept that even though I don’t achieve the level of perfection I desire, I can still make a positive impact. It’s a good lesson that I use as a reminder to this day.”

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The finished mural, summer 2003. Photo courtesy Arin Ringwald.