A proposed revision of the city's Percent for Art program could detach funding for future public art installations from infrastructure projects if approved by city council, in addition to establishing a public art reserve and changing the program's name to the Public Art to Enhance Edmonton's Public Realm policy. Council's executive committee reviewed the changes on Aug. 9 and recommended they be approved at council on Aug. 16.
"We can look at the city as if it is a giant art gallery and every section of the city is a room within the gallery that can be programmed," said David Turnbull, the director of public art and conservation for the Edmonton Arts Council (EAC).
The Percent for Art policy was established in 1991 to allocate 1% of eligible construction projects' budgets towards new public art installations, like Trio (2015), Vaulted Willow (2014), and Essential Tree (2015). The policy was revised in 2007, in addition to undergoing a council review every five years.
Turnbull was directly involved in developing the proposed changes to the policy and is hoping that they will "maximize city-wide impact, ensuring art is installed where it has better exposure to residents" while engaging citizens and artistic leaders with civic planning.
The policy has been criticized for a lack of clarity around project selection in the past, and despite the program being in place, projects like the Groat Road Bridge rehabilitation, which was completed in 2020, do not have art installations.