Port Coquitlam ponders public art

Richard Tetrault and Jerry Whitehead painted the mural next to Port Coquitlam
Richard Tetrault and Jerry Whitehead painted the mural next to Port Coquitlam's Railside Park, the city's latest public art project.
— image credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO

A public art program being proposed in the city of Port Coquitlam would put greater emphasis on creativity and artistic elements when council and staff make development decisions.

Larry Wheeler, PoCo's acting director of parks and recreation, said whether the city is building a bridge, sidewalk or other types of infrastructure staff will look for opportunities to give the project more artistic flare.

The program, should it be adopted by council, would also formalize the city's decision-making process around choosing and paying for public art.

"It's kind of been done on an ad hoc basis," he said. "We wanted to really shift the thinking so that we looked at all opportunities through the arts lens."

Wheeler points to the crosswalks in Maple Ridge, where the municipality has constructed artistic mosaics, as an example of a low cost project that can enhance the street scape.

Engineering has begun to engage in the process, he added, and similar projects could be considered in Port Coquitlam in the future.

"The thing with art is that it is one of the key elements to your quality of life," he said. "What we are trying to do here is create opportunities for something that people will remember."

The public art program consists of several recommendations that staff will be forwarding to council for approval.

It would create a vision statement with guiding principles and adopt a definition of public art for the municipality.

The selection process would consist of several steps. First, an opportunity for public art would have to be identified, which would be followed by the creation of a task group to consider the project. An artist would be selected and municipal approvals would then be sought.

The program also outlines ways the city can fund its public art program.

"We are trying to do it in a way that would not require a lot of new dollars," Wheeler said. "We want to do it with existing funding."

Developers and private business will be encouraged to incorporate public art in their developments and the staff report said the city should set an example with its own properties and buildings.

Some municipalities, Wheeler notes, have gone as far as mandating a certain amount of public art for each development. But he said that at this point in the evolution of PoCo's art policy, making art a requirement is not necessary.

However, he believes that by having a formal policy will encourage developers and residents to come forward with ideas for beautification projects in the city.

The new public washrooms being planned for construction at Lions Park would be the first test of the public art program.

Wheeler said staff and engineers are looking for an opportunity to incorporate a mural or some form of artistic design when the project goes forward.

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