I wrote my first letter to the editor!
Kingston Mayor Steve Noble’s “Art in Public” policy proposal claims to encourage artists to “create artwork that engages with the public,” but the regulatory policy discourages community engagement and censors public art through unnecessary bureaucracies.
Last October, I facilitated the “Art in Public” panel at the O+ Festival, focusing on the question: Who owns public space? When we read the mayor’s proposal with eyes attuned to this question, it’s clear that access, voice and freedom of expression are absent. There are no clear qualifications, representation stipulations or placement processes listed for the five appointees. The application process includes a $25 fee, permits and site approvals (additional fees?), along with a potential 30-day period for approval/rejection. There is no information about the monthly panel meetings (day/night? child care? open/closed to public?). It states that determinations “will not be made based on content,” but provides no criteria.
What about those who can’t afford the process, the leisure time, or the child care required to present their proposal in person upon appeal? Will they be criminalized for gifting the city their art (attracting tourists and boosting our local economy)? And what of the O+ organizers who have spent a decade building relationships with community members, ensuring that wall space is equitably distributed, which is particularly important for marginalized and underrepresented mural artists?
The proposed policy fits neatly with other efforts by our local government to privatize public space (e.g. the $10 million in revitalization funds benefiting The Kingstonian).
Kingston residents should oppose the policy proposal unequivocally.