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Public art for GRT centre put on hold

By Ryan Flanagan
Kitchener Post staff

Plans to spend up to $110,000 on artwork for the renovated Grand River Transit operations centre on Strasburg Road came under fire from regional councillors last week.

Some councillors questioned whether art was necessary at a facility rarely visited by the public, while others wondered if the art is necessary at all.

“Talking about money being spent for an art piece, at this particular time, seems to me to be difficult to fathom,” said North Dumfries Mayor Rob Deutschmann.

The region currently has $320,000 sitting in a reserve fund earmarked for public art projects. Some of that money comes from the budgets of major regional construction projects, while the region’s annual budget provides an additional $65,000 each year.

With the region scrambling to make up for a $6-million shortfall in social services spending, (see page 9) Deutschmann said he’d rather see money planned public art sent in that direction.

Kitchener Coun. Jean Haalboom took issue with that idea, saying the funding for the art project had been allocated for several years and there are several larger chunks of spending which could be cut to achieve the same goal.

“Perhaps we should dip into one of the roads budgets, perhaps we should dip into the water services budget, or health services,” she said.

“This project has been on the books and had the funds allocated for several years. I don’t think it’s exactly fair to say now that we should be switching out or pulling out the money.”

Since 2002, the region has placed public art at 11 new facilities. Recent public art installations have typically cost between $100,000 and $125,000. For the GRT operations centre, $55,000 has been set aside from construction budgets.

A regional report says any art for the Strasburg facility would “highlight the important role of the facility in the Region’s public transportation system . . . with a significant physical presence in order to be seen and appreciated by the public.”

Region chair Ken Seiling suggested councillors consider cutting back on the Strasburg Road project to save money for a larger public art presence at the future transit hub at King and Victoria streets.

“This particular site and location isn’t really one that’s frequented by the public that much,” he said.

“I know we do this with all of our buildings, but I think with the development of the hub, we might want to make a more substantial investment in public art at the hub.”

Unable to reach a consensus, councillors voted to discuss the issue again after finalizing the 2013 budget.

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