The public art piece, known as the Tartan, has been cancelled.
On Monday night, Mission council reconsidered its previous unanimous decision to move the art work forward.
Coun. Mark Davies asked council to reconsider the decision and vote again.
After statements by the mayor and each councillor, a vote to approve the piece was held for a second time. Again the vote was unanimous, but this time every councillor was against the project moving forward.
The original vote to approve the piece, designed by artist Imu Chan, created a huge backlash on social media
The piece – described as a three-dimensional, cube-shaped interpretation of the District of Mission tartan made of coloured Plexiglas with a colour palette and pattern inspired by the district’s tartan – was largely panned online.
As was the cost of $50,300.
Along with negative feedback on social media, council members also received emails demanding the project be scrapped.
During the debate, Mission Mayor Pam Alexis took the opportunity to “dispel some of the myths” that were circulating on social media.
She told the crowd at the meeting that funds for public art do not come from general tax revenue.
“It comes from gaming revenue. We use the gaming revenue for various projects throughout the community, not just cultural ones,” said Alexis.
She also explained that the proper process was followed, as it has been for other public art pieces in the past. The Cultural Resources Commission was tasked to vet the submissions and guide council.
“Two of the members are professional local artists. If you are interested in being part of this commission, the intake for new members takes place in the fall.”
The final myth she wanted to dispel is that the piece had no significance to the community.
“That couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Alexis said the tartan signifies the work of dedicated women in the community who “worked tirelessly in the social, cultural and heritage sectors, creating the Mission we are so proud of today.
“It was Rona Jacobsen, who will be 99 this year, and is a life-long advocate for public transit, who firmly placed her hands on the counter at Rex Cox in the early 1990s and said Mission needed its own tartan.”
The Mission Weavers and Spinners got to work and the tartan was created.
Alexis also quoted the public art network council saying “Cities gain value through public art – cultural, social and economic value.”
“And in my own words, public art does not incite hate. And it’s hate that I have seen over and over again on social media.”
Finally, Alexis told council that they will make hundreds of decisions each year and will never be able to please all of the public, all of the time.
One by one, each councillor expressed their feeling about the public art controversy.
Coun. Cal Crawford said he believes the process of choosing the art work was done correctly and thanked people for their hard work.
“However, I also believe that due to the overwhelming negative response that council has received from the citizens of Mission, this art object has been tainted beyond repair. In my opinion, if we went ahead with this art piece, it will always be viewed in a negative and abusive light, rather than what was intended,” said Crawford.
Coun. Carol Hamilton said she feels the piece of art “has been marred and could be the subject of vandalism.”
“I believe it is OK to take a sober second look after a decision has been made, if council feels it is warranted. With the public feedback, mainly on social media, respectfully I believe this to be the case that we take a second look,” said Hamilton.
Coun. Ken Herar said he thinks everyone can agree that public art can be controversial and very subjective. While he, like the rest of council, originally voted in favour, the situation has evolved.
“What we have seen, in the conversation to follow, was there was no spark for this particular public art choice and it certainly did not resonate with the general public, unfortunately,” said Herar.
Coun. Danny Plecas commended any artist who takes on the challenge to create public art. However, it would be difficult to move this piece forward.
“There would be ridicule, there would be damage to the piece of art. It just simply would be a challenge to put that art there today,” said Plecas.
Coun. Jag Gill said he appreciated the amount of work the commission put in to get the art project this far.
“Public art does cause controversy, but I just believe that if we go ahead with this art, it’s been tainted. In respect to the artist, it won’t be appreciated,” said Gill.
Coun. Mark Davies thanked council for taking a second look at the project. He said the process was followed correctly however “it seems the process has become politicized and we need to solve that problem.”
“Public art is incredibly important… we want to see it continue to move forward in Mission, but I don’t want to see what happened this last two weeks happen again,” said Davies.
The contract between the district and the artist has not yet been signed and there are no major ramifications for changing the vote.
It did cost the district $1,000 to pay the artist for materials used to create the scale model.
No plans are in place at this time for a new art piece as council decided to wait before deciding how to move forward.