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.

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