Spreading the love: Art funds budgeted for new construction could be used around Whitehorse

More than $350,000 in public art budgeted for Whitehorse’s proposed new operations building won’t actually have to go inside the building if the city’s new arts policy is approved next week.

More than $350,000 in public art budgeted for Whitehorse’s proposed new operations building won’t actually have to go inside the building if the city’s new arts policy is approved next week.

Councillors got their first look at the proposed new policy at the March 6 council meeting. Last year city staff were asked to review the rules, which haven’t been updated since 2000, ahead of issuing the tender for the construction project.

Under the new policy, municipally-owned buildings and facilities that are “frequented by the general public” would continue to have one per cent of their construction costs set aside for art.

Linda Rapp, the city’s director of community and recreation services, confirmed after the meeting that includes the proposed new $47 million operations building.

In the case of the operations building an estimated $367,000 would be set aside for art. The new building would be part of the biggest construction project the city has ever tackled.

Construction costs exclude the price of site servicing, landscaping, furniture, fixtures and equipment and consulting costs.

The biggest difference in the updated policy is that not all of the money has to be spent on art inside or around the building in question.

While a portion of the cash could be used within the space “in addition, recommendations shall be made for the re-allocation of any remaining balances to projects on other publicly accessible spaces within the boundaries of the City of Whitehorse,” the new rules read.

The one per cent allocation is about on par with policies in other Canadian cities. But the idea of having to spend the whole amount on one building raised concerns among councillors ahead of the review.

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

Exactly how the public art money will be spent will likely depend on recommendations from an ad hoc working group that will be created.

It is common for these groups, which include members of the arts community and the general public, to be created when the city is looking at buying art, Rapp told council. This is the first time they will be formally part of city policy.

The new committee will make recommendations for how that money should be spent, but the final decision will be up to city council.

It is difficult to get a sense for how council might vote on the proposed to policy. Very little discussion happened at the March 6 meeting. Three of the seven-member of council, including Coun. Dan Boyd, who proposed the policy review in the first place, were not at the meeting.

A vote is scheduled to take place next week.

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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