I have seen the City of Calgary screw up before but never in such a spectacular fashion.
Last week I heard about a new City art program that sounded pretty cool to me. In response to comments from Shaw Millennium Park users that the park was dull and didn’t provide the kind of urban energy you might expect in a skate park, the City decided to let the complainers do the fixing.
In a press release sent out on Friday, August 21 the City announced, “Shaw Millennium Park was built for and dedicated to Calgary’s youth who often tell us it’s drab and boring. We’re providing young urban artists a chance to work with an acclaimed professional artist to visually animate this space.” In short the City gave the users the paint and pointed them in the direction of a wall on the Landmark building to unveil their masterpieces.
More amazingly the local youth would be “under the guidance of internationally acclaimed urban artist The Kid Belo.” What a great idea and opportunity for Calgary’s kids!
What could go wrong, right? After all the press release continues on to say, “The urban artists will be visually identified as authorized to create this work” and “a peer review process will be facilitated by The City so that only the best work will be allowed to stay. The Kid Belo will work with the young artists to ensure all artwork is appropriate for the space.”
Apparently The City and The Kid Belo must have fell asleep at some point because Shaw Millennium Park was completely trashed in just two days. (See Michael Platt’s article in the Calgary Sun for all the details on what went wrong.)
As the press release says, “artwork will only be permitted in a certain area of the park. Anything outside that area will be considered graffiti and vandalism.”
Well it looks like there is A LOT of vandalism then. Just take a look at the Sun picture from the interior of the men’s room! I wonder if any of the paint ended up on the correct wall?
The behaviour of the perpetrators is simply despicable. They were given an opportunity and they wasted it. And for what? To be seen as punk-asses by the rest of the city? Way to ruin it for everybody.
Not to mention the outcome of this project just gives “art” a bad name. The ramifications of which could be felt through public perception and funding for years to come.
Normally I would say a project like this is a fantastic idea. Calgary needs to look at ways of empowering citizens to improve our lot and make our home a better place. But where were the controls? Surely the City knew something like this COULD happen. They even said addressed it in the press release. So where was the supervision? Did they just leave the paint in the park for anyone to use? Clearly the perpetrators were not “visually identified as authorized to create this work”.
With so much going so spectacularly wrong the question becomes who’s at fault? (We already know who’s going to foot the bill. That’d be you and me. But I’d suggest the cleanup comes out of the budget of the offending department’s budget. You break it; you bought it.)
Do we blame the vandals entirely? Does The Kid Belo deserve some of the blame? Regardless I’d suggest the City is going to have to shoulder the responsibility on this one and admit the program clearly had a massive hole in it and was beyond poorly planned. Whoever was in charge of the program needs to step up, take the blame, and publicly apologize for allowing a beautiful iconic park to be so thoroughly destroyed.
Sadly, today much more than just a park was destroyed.
PS – In an unrelated note congratulations to Rachael Seupersad for her appointment yesterday as the City of Calgary’s Superintendent, Public Art. I hope her department isn’t in charge of this program, because if it is, she may have the shortest tenure for a City employee of all time.