City puts out call for outside group to run Calgary’s troubled public art program

The city has hired a consulting firm to help select an outside group to manage Calgary’s public art program.

The public art program was frozen in 2017 after several controversial public art projects, such as the art installation known as Bowfort Towers and the giant blue ring sculpture dubbed Travelling Light.

City council voted last year in favour of transferring the program’s operation to an independent or external body, citing Edmonton and Winnipeg as examples of cities where arm’s-length organizations run the public art programs.

On Wednesday, the city said Art + Public UnLtd has been contracted to develop a process to find a public group with the right qualifications to manage the art program.

A request for proposals has been posted on the city’s website. Interested organizations can apply until Nov. 19.

The city is also looking for four people to be part of the selection panel. The deadline to apply is Oct. 29.

The successful bidder will be chosen by the selection panel in December and announced next March once contract negotiations are completed.

The city plans to begin transitioning the public art program’s operation to the outside group by April 2021.

Under the new arrangement, the city will still maintain a corporate public art budget that dedicates one per cent of capital project funds to pieces of public art. And the public art collection will continue to be owned by the city.

But the procurement process will be simpler, more accessible, and will promote more diversity among the artists commissioned under the program, the city says.

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