Putting the art before the horse

Back in 2010 the MorMac government set president of rubber stamping the flaming peace in-front of town hall.

In addition to commenting on how inspiration for said piece appears to have come from an aftermarket Ford truck grill I pointed out how then Clr MacHeckron was too impatient to wait for a public policy stating it could take 10 years.

It was a monumentally stupid stance to propose and attempt to defend, and yet here we are 10 years later and the town is still operating without a policy but that hasn’t stopped it from rolling out more public art this term.

The most recent is a diversity mural that had it followed a policy could have saved everyone an unnecessary journey through an abundant lack of proper council and citizen engagement at key intervals, a questionable location and even something as simple as the donations that made it possible.

If council had adopted and followed a policy the resulting piece would have been significantly more impactful, even possibly making Aurora proud. Instead we have this:

Upon first glance I question why the hands are at the top. The entire composition looks upside down with the hands pushing the piece towards the viewer instead of having the hands draw the viewer in and lift them up into the piece.

That aside here are the top 5 issues I have with the mural.

1) It includes a title as part of the piece.

The first rule of public art club is if you need to put a title to explain the piece of art inside the piece of art, you have failed.

The fact that there is an accompanying text piece posted beside the work that repeats the same title illustrates the redundancy:

2.) It isn’t unique, nor does it inspire or evoke emotion.

If you bother to visit the website of outfit outlined in this blurb they claim that “art should inspire and evoke emotion.”

I don’t see how this mural achieves these goals.

Emotion comes from provoking thought. Ceasar A. Cruz phrased it as “art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable”. What emotions overcome you when you see a literal depiction of multiple hands making a quilt?

What is even more upsetting is that this piece is a derivative work from “Weaving the Future” another quilt themed work they did in 2021 for the Oakwood BIA:

Notice this mural was painted, and the hands are positioned at the bottom.

If the objective of this mural was to depict Aurora’s story, how is it that this company can just recycle the theme from Oakwood Village?

3.) Support Local

The mural isn’t painted, instead a vinyl print has been applied to the wall.

When I went to investigate which local Aurora based business did the work I found out it was Unique Media Solutions an outfit based out of Whitby.

Um, is the Aurora Chamber of Commerce not engaged to match up a suitable Aurora based business to do this work? I know there are several. What about CurbSigns over on Industrial Parkway?

I even understand thanks were given to this printer for meeting a fast deadline. Again I’m not sure why such a project needed to be rushed at all. It would be unsettling to learn that a contract was awarded to an out of town business over a local one because of some imposed deadline.

4.) Location.

The mural not only competes with surrounding signage, boulevard trees and a parking lot, it actually competes with an advertisement on the same wall:

Adding insult to injury the real-estate ad has illumination, the town’s public art piece, by design remains in the dark:

Back in 2010 I pointed at the section on page 37 of the Promenade Concept Plan that spoke to Public Art.

Here are 3 notable sections that speak to locating Public Art in the Promenade:

a.) The Aurora Promenade Urban Design Strategy identifies visually strategic locations for public art installations including the terminus of view corridors, at entryways, on prominent corners, or in squares, parks and plazas.

Is this location one of the strategic locations outlined in the Promenade Strategy? If yes, why? If not, same question

b.) Public art sites should be highly visible and, as such, these sites should include installations that serve as accents to The Aurora Promenade, as orienting devices for moving about or as focal points in public open spaces.

How is this piece an “orienting device”?

c.) Entryway sites serve as an important opportunity for significant public art installations to mark entry into The Aurora Promenade. The Town should consider a design competition to raise the profile of The Aurora Promenade and establish compelling entryways.

Is this considered an entryway? Was there a “design competition” for this piece?

So not only does this mural not conform to a public art policy it seems to contravene guidelines outlined in the town’s own Promenade document.

5.) Process

This mural seems to have been conceived with an end date in mind and rushed through whatever issues to ensure it was completed prior to the end of the term.

At the April 6th 2021 General Committee Meeting even the town’s CAO says it “took on a quick life”. You can watch here @ 46.18


What is more interesting is that @ 51:45 the Town’s manager for Library square states that a “mural sub committee” was formed but when questioned was not entirely sure how the mural got to the task force.

That seems odd.

Especially if you back up to March 24th, 2021 meeting of the Anti-Black Racism committee meeting he presented to it, stating the mural will go to council April 6th and then they will go out for a call to artists.

You can follow along at 3:00

He also says it has gone to the sub committee 3 times.

When we get to @ 6:51 of this meeting he states “by speaking with Clr. Kim and Mayor Mrakas we identified the location of the mural”.

Interesting.

So the location of the mural was chosen before going to the committee or council for their input.

If true this appears to be 2 members of council directing staff.

But what is more laughable then this is that this location is not the final location of the mural.

WTF?

Why is staff proposing a location for a public art mural before locking it down.

My understanding is that several complications arose from the location chosen by Mrakas and Kim due to its proximity to Wellington Street. The safety concerns would prevent direct paint application onto that wall and thus the location was scuttled.

The whole process is backwards.

Instead of 2 members of council picking a location and then proceeding to push a mural on it, exploration and examination suitable sites should be something staff is directed by a council motion to propose and deliver to a committee for them to consider. Then after a couple locations are considered they can be followed up on with respect to suitability for the proposed piece.

We already touched on the absence of the Chamber of Commerce, but where is the whole Downtown B.I.A. in all of this? The mural in Oakwood was overseen by their B.I.A. Why not Aurora’s?

But I’m not the only one questioning process here.

At the town’s April 20th, 2021 General Committee Meeting Phiona Durrant made a delegation where she seems to question why the mural was on their agenda consuming so much of their time. You can follow along @22:59

Cameron Cartere and Anthony Schrag’s 2022 book “The Failures of Public Art and Participation” provides a critical voice on the commissioning of public and participatory arts and seems to be a good jumping off point to explore exactly how badly Aurora is failing its community on the subject.

If “community builds community” then a process needs to be implemented and maintained to ensure that this happens.

Sidestepping this needed level of participation only results in flaming peace trees and recycled designs from Oakwood Park.

Yup, Public Art got done.

Just not well, nor meeting the expectations of our community.

Is it too much to ask to put the horse before the cart before we try these selfie projects next term?

Watts on your mind?

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