City may opt for narrow review of arts funding policy

The City of Whitehorse may have to pare down a review of its arts policy if it wants work to get done ahead of plans for a new operations building.

The City of Whitehorse may have to pare down a review of its arts policy if it wants work to get done ahead of plans for a new operations building.

At Monday’s council meeting city staff recommended council approve a “narrow scope review” of the policy as opposed to a full revamp.

Council will vote on what to do next week.

A narrow review would mean at least one contentious point — the percentage of a project’s construction budget that goes towards art — won’t be touched for now.

In August council asked for a review of the policy before a tender is issued for the new $47-million operations building. Under the current policy, one per cent of a public building’s construction budget goes towards public art. For the operations building that works out to about $367,000, because the policy doesn’t extend to things such as landscaping and furniture, which are part of the larger price tag.

The construction tender is slated to go out in early 2017. A full review of the policy would take about 18 months and cost between $50,000 and $100,000, recreation manager Linda Rapp told council.

“We felt that is something that we were not in the position to recommend at this time,” she said.

A full review would include researching best practices and incorporating public consultation.

A narrower scope would instead look at specific questions and include consultation with local arts groups but not a wider public consultation.

It would provide a clear definition of what counts as a public building and where art that is funded through the policy can be installed.

There have been questions about whether the new building would count as a public building and therefore qualify for the one per cent in arts funding.

The operations building will serve as a home for city departments including transportation, equipment maintenance, engineering, traffic, environmental sustainability, and water and waste services, as well as some human resources staff.

If the term “public building” means buildings typically open to the public, the operations building might not qualify for any arts money. However, if the definition is simply any building built with public money, then it would qualify.

It also isn’t clear if public art must be installed in the same building that generated the funding.

Coun. Dan Boyd has suggested a reserve fund be created to hold all the arts money that comes from construction.

“Then it may end up in the building but it may end up other places depending on what the final policy says,” he said Monday night.

Rapp said that is something the narrow review could look at.

No one on council has explicitly suggested lowering the amount of the construction budget dedicated to art.

That hasn’t stopped some people from raising the concern that the percentage could be cut if the policy was opened up.

“For a major change, such as changing the one per cent up, down or otherwise, I would want there to be enough of a consultation process that people could feed into that in a much more meaningful way,” Coun. Roslyn Woodcock said.

Rapp said that is not on the list of things that would be looked at under a narrow review. There was no mention of how long that review of the arts policy would take.

Contact Ashley Joannou at