The Vernon City Council’s decision to withdraw its support and $33,000 in funding previously earmarked for the controversial project behind the mask The public art project and exhibition has “stunned” those closest to the work.
“There has to be a better system for making decisions about public art,” said Dauna Kennedy, executive director of the Vernon Public Art Gallery, in a press release following the change of course.
“Few cities consult the public in the manner suggested by councilors because art is emotional and subjective. Public art is an important vehicle to not only beautify a community, but also to stimulate thought and dialogue through critical works intended to challenge the viewer.”
The project sparked intense public debate and petitions for and against the installation. More than 4,000 signatures have been submitted for an online anti-art petition entitled Say ‘No’ to Vernon’s Scary New Murals.
Consultation results for the controversial Vernon mural project have been presented to Council
A pro-mural counter-petition collected around 2,500 signatures.
As attention for the project continued to grow in June, it was shelved by the council pending public consultation. The process was one in which the gallery was actively involved.
“The gallery’s consultation was intended to ensure that everyone who completed the survey had an opportunity to see every piece, read every artist statement and understand the entire process,” said Sarah Kennedy, board member.
“This resulted in a much smaller sample, but still sufficient to be representative of the Vernon public. And every kind of media was used to invite the public to come to the gallery to participate.”
Public consultation for the Vernon, BC wall project is now underway
Gallery staff said 65 percent of the 353 viewers supported moving forward with the mural project.
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The project, Kennedy said, would have provided many benefits to the economy, society and culture. Especially in the area of creating a dialogue on mental health.
Before the city reversed its decision, the project had met its funding goals of $55,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, $33,000 from the City of Vernon, $10,000 from the Regional District of North Okanagan, and $7,500 from Vernon Tourism. The material and the artist’s fee have already been paid.
Gallery officials said they may now have to return grant money to Canada Council, jeopardizing its ability to secure future grants.
Controversial mural project sent back for consultation by Vernon
“Canada Council grants don’t come every day,” said Andrew Powell, president of the gallery.
“This project would have given us the opportunity to apply for operational funding that would have effectively subsidized the gallery and saved the city money in the long run, especially given the promise of a new facility. We are dissatisfied with this decision, to say the least.”
After being advised that the city might reverse its position and withdraw its support, the gallery returned to the city of Vernon with a recommendation for a scaled-down exhibition that would feature only eight murals in locations that would be fitting for the city theme and a reduced shelf life of three years instead of five.
This option was also rejected.
The gallery was also approached by another community willing to provide space for the wall installations.
Global Okanagan has reached out to city councils.
There’s more to come.
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https://globalnews.ca/news/9114135/vernon-art-gallery-council-decline-mural-project-mental-health/ Vernon Art Gallery is stunned by council’s decision to reject mural project focusing on mental health