‘Ottawa’ Councillor Questions $10M Earmarked for Stage 2 Public Art
The city would spend $10 million on new public art along the Stage 2 rail extensions, prompting one councillor to suggest lowering the spending cap for artwork.
Council’s default position is to spend the money on art, since the city has a policy that says one per cent of capital projects over $2 million must be spent on public art.
The proposed art budget in the Stage 2 package breaks down two ways: $10 million would be for art commissions across the extended rail system; and, as an extra project, the city would pony up $1 million specifically for artwork in the reconstructed corridor along Richmond Road and the Byron linear park.
“Ten million (dollars) is a lot to spend when we have so many other challenges,” River Coun. Riley Brockington said Monday. “Art is important, but it’s not No. 1.”
Brockington is investigating what it would take to scale back the proposed spending on art in Stage 2.
“I don’t support spending nothing,” Brockington said, but he believes the $10-million art tab is a little too rich for the $3-billion program to extend rail in three directions.
“For me, it’s a lot of money.”
The $10-million figure is one per cent of the city’s $1-billion share of the LRT and Trillium Line extensions. The federal and provincial governments are expected to pay for the other two-thirds of the Stage 2 capital costs and pay the full costs for bonus extensions to Trim Road and the Ottawa International Airport.
Council will vote on the final Stage 2 blueprint and procurement method on March 8.
Stage 1 of the Confederation Line also has public art built into the construction costs. Those artworks will be unveiled as the LRT stations are completed this year and in 2018, when the system opens.
The list of art and associated costs for Stage 1 weren’t available Monday.
“At this point in time, we can confirm that the various artists and art projects to be featured in the LRT stations have been selected and the work on the projects is underway,” according to Richard Holder, acting director of O-Train construction.
The Stage 2 construction, which will happen between 2018 and 2023, will bring LRT service to Moodie Drive, Algonquin College and Trim Road, plus bring Trillium Line service to Bowesville Road and the airport. There will be 23 more rail stations in Stage 2.
Peter Honeywell, executive director of the Ottawa Arts Council, said people need to consider the public art price tag in the context of the Stage 2 scope.
“I don’t think $10 million is that much when you spread it out to the number of stops,” Honeywell said.
Broken down by the full length of the Stage 2 extensions, the new public art would translate into roughly $251,000 for each kilometre of rail. Going by the number of stations, it would be almost $434,000 per station.
Transit art is what makes cities memorable, Honeywell said.
“When I travel around internationally or the U.S. or Toronto, art has been installed in stations and has become the placemark for those parts of the city,” Honeywell said, pointing to the Museum subway station in Toronto as one example.
Brockington agreed that cities with artsy transit stations are “beautiful,” but he said council needs to weigh the cost of buying artwork against other demands, like providing better transit service.
“I have a lot of service issues in my ward with OC Transpo and I have to prioritize how I spend money,” Brockington said.