Podcast covers sequel to public art controversy

Podcast covers sequel to public art controversy

· The Pulse

Episode 211 of Speaking Municipally updates a public art story that Taproot's civic affairs podcast has been paying attention to since June 2021.

That's when co-hosts Troy Pavlek and Mack Male first asked whatever happened to the public art that had been commissioned as part of the Walterdale Bridge project. They discovered artist Ken Lum was unhappy that his sculpture, The Buffalo and the Buffalo Fur Trader, had been in storage since 2016.

The city announced in August 2022 that it had decided not to install the piece for fear that it could be misinterpreted as a celebration of colonialism, but the words it chose got it into trouble, leading to an apology on Feb. 24. The August news release "referenced the removed Government Station LRT murals, implying by association that Mr. Lum's piece was 'pro-colonist' and this is an unfair and regrettable comparison," the statement says, going on to detail Lum's bona fides as an artist and an opponent of racism. "The City apologizes for any unintended harm to Mr. Lum's stellar reputation."

The sculpture has been transferred out of the municipal public art collection and will be displayed somewhere chosen by Lum, who told CTV he was "glad this chapter is over and that the work is going to a good home."

Male and Pavlek are looking forward to seeing the piece in nicer surroundings than the storage yard it has been sitting in. Pavlek noted that the initial idea was to have the buffalo and the fur trader on opposite sides of the river, staring across at each other.

"The piece doesn't work quite as well if the two are sitting beside each other at the entrance to some multi-use trail, so the location was kind of part of the art," he said. "I'll be interested to see what location they use."

Hear more about this, as well as how Edmonton fared in the Alberta budget, what's next for alcohol in parks, the sequels to various police-related stories, and the new fine for vehicle noise on the March 3 episode of Taproot's civic affairs podcast.