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Public art in Ottawa: Reaching out

By Raymond Aubin on May 5, 2015

After two and a half years in the making, the City of Ottawa will issue its new Public Art Policy this year.

The Public Art Renewal Committee (PARC) was set up in 2012 to renew the City’s policy. The committee is composed of artists, academics and representatives from the public. PARC met six times in 2012 and 2013 and presented its first report for review at a public Open House in 2013. A second public consultation was held on April 13. The review process will be completed this summer, ready for approval by City Council.

The Public Art Program includes public art commissions, the City of Ottawa Art Collection, and exhibitions. The City commissions artworks to be integrated into public buildings and parks. These are accessible by the users of the premises and by the general public. The City also acquires artworks through purchase and donation for its Collection, which are then circulated to enhance the working environment of City facilities. A variety of art exhibitions are held at the Karsh-Masson Gallery and the City Hall Art Gallery, both located at City Hall.

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As part of its mandate for a renewed policy, the Public Art Program staff interviewed a number of specialists and examined best international practice in public art. It had one goal in mind: opening up. This took shape in a number of ways. One was to spread the presence of art from the centre to the periphery of the municipality. Another was to enlarge the notion of what art can be to keep up with current trends. Yet another goal was to increase the general awareness of art and connect artists with community projects. A final direction was to increase support for the development of artists through appropriate training and mentorship.

Public art is important for the soul. Public art is important for the economy. Several cities around the world have made a name for themselves through their public art. One can think of Mexico City, Chicago, and Barcelona. The new Ottawa Public Art Policy deserves our support.


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