Dear City of Calgary Council,
Integrity Commissioner here, thought maybe I would chime in on this whole ‘funding for public art’ issue that has been troubling some of you for the last little while.
Of course the drop in oil prices has us all panicking and retreating to our Campbell’s Soup-Stocked emergency shelters and panic rooms. We have to examine things that are important to us as a city. Running water is obviously a yes, as is electricity. Ring road? Maybe not as high on the priority list. There are the library renovations down town – high on the list because books.
But where does public art fall on this ever-changing list of wants and needs? Some would argue it falls no where on the list because public art is about as useful to the city as a fingerless glove to a hook-handed public official. Others might argue that public art is a means for our city to show visitors where our values lie. We find some level of importance in 50 foot mesh heads and giant blue rings that absolutely bear no resemblance to one of the various hoops that are taken out by the carnies every time Stampede rolls around. Nope. It is definitely art.
The issue here is that the Calgary City Council is viewing this as a black and white matter. Either we put money towards public art or we feed the orphans. Allow me to provide an alternative: Have the orphans make the art. Ha ha ha! I jest, of course. Everyone knows we ship those free-loaders to Red Deer.
But seriously, folks. You know that art can be cheap, right? Your 17 foot sculpture of Naheed Nenshi’s skeletal structure doesn’t have to cost $45,000. The problem is you folks are awful at haggling which is exactly why every time your middle-eastern friends come round to your house and see your Persian rug they relentlessly mock you for it. Because you paid for it. Someone forgot to teach you folks how to haggle. Well, don’t worry because I am here to supply you with a series of potential public art projects that are cheap and can, for the most part, be made using basic supplies found around your house!
- Take some hockey sticks. I mean, like, all the hockey stick. Heck, take the Edmonton Oilers ones (they obviously aren’t using them). Okay, now super glue them together to form a deciduous tree, like a maple or something. Maybe an elm. Now, take all the hockey pucks, and I mean all of them, and super glue them to the trees to form ‘leaves’.
- What does it mean? This particular piece, entitled “The Hockey Pokey” represents the effervescent love of hockey that all Canadians share. Or something like that.
- For this one you are going to need some condiments. A lot of condiments. I’m talking relish, mustard (both grainy and yellow), ketchup, sauerkraut, sautéed onions, jalapeños, everything you can think of. Now you’re going to take some bed sheets and just soak them with condiments. Arrange the soaked bedsheets in a ball like structure so they look a globe, with each condiment-sheet being a different country. Shellac the heck out of it so it doesn’t start stinking up down town. Place on a stack of used sofa cushions for display.
- What does it mean? I call this piece “Condiments of the World”, get it? Ha ha ha! It’s like ‘continents’ but not! The pun basically makes the whole thing. It represents our unity as a multi-cultural society through food! Or something like that.
- This one has multiple purposes. You know how we used to have those cow statues everywhere? Well, in this particular piece we will shave the head of all the City Council members for charity, preferrably the Alberta Children’s Hospital (I guarantee this would raise a good wad of cash, this negating the need to ever discuss where we will get funds for public art again.) We will then take the hair and, combining it with a paste made up of old root vegetables and Q-tips, we will create a new cow statue.
- What does it mean? I don’t know. I figure the general public would probably get a kick out of seeing the whole of the city council being bald. Plus charity. We could call it “Our Beef With City Council!” Or something like that.
- This next one is great because it involves recycling. We are going to take some wine bottles. Basically all the wine bottles everywhere. Also all the empty liqueur bottles. We are going to smash the hell out of those bottles. We are going to take that crushed glass and create some pretty-ass looking layers of colour in a giant clear tank. It will be like one of those sand art bottle things you can get from mall kiosks during the holidays, only it will be made from all the empties that the people of Calgary have accumulated. The scene to be shown in the glass? Well, I think we could put it to a vote, let the public decide! After all, it’s going to be out in the open for everyone to see. Personally I am in favour of having art that shows my cats. Just my cats, doing cat stuff.
- Seriously, What does it mean? “Through the Looking Cats” would be a delightful play on words that would show our love of literature. Or something like that.
- What? Not enough? Okay. Um, let me think. How about we take all the plastic bags we get from an average trip to the grocery store and knit those bastards into a giant 20 foot tall touque that can also double as a kids park or, or! We put it on top of that giant mesh head outside the Bow. Nailed it!
- I don’t get what it means. I know. Art is hard to understand sometimes. “Touquing it to the Next Level” would be the first of many major art projects that will be added to the Mesh Head, hereby known as ‘Leslie’. By the time we are done Leslie will represent the inscrutable spirit of Calgarians everywhere. Or something like that.
- Geez, you people are demanding. Okay. How about this. Next to the Giant Blue Ring we place a Giant Red Octagon, a Giant Orange Triangle, a Giant Yellow Square, a Giant Green Isosceles Triangle (for diversity), and on the other side a Giant Indigo Oval, and finally a Giant Purple Star.
- But… Why? I don’t know. Okay? At least it will be a rainbow and people will stop laughing at the single blue ring. Or something like that.
- I am almost out ideas, but of course I saved the best for last. We’re going to need 76 lbs of wild flower seeds, two 20 foot watering cans, a giant marionette hand and a series of ropes and pulleys. To pull this off someone is going to have to be hired to live in the miniature mushroom hut and dress up as an elf. They’ll have to be very good at yelling at children and the elderly but not use racial obscenities. Colour-blind candidates are preferred, hopefully with no family connections and the ability to still legally enter the US.
- I… What? I call it… “The Reckoning of Saint Bacon and the Whinnying Quartet”. Don’t ask questions. It’ll cost about $200 but I can make it work on less. In the end it will amuse, bemuse, and even terrify those who see it. No one will ever question Calgary again. We will be known as the city that lived. Others will bow in fear and admiration of us. Or something like that.
You’re welcome, Calgary.
Kathleen Sawisky, esq.
Integrity Commissioner (?)