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Editorial: City money for art an idea worth a fresh look

Public art good for residents and tourists alike
mural downtown
Yorkton's downtown mural could still be anchor for more public art in city.

YORKTON - The City of Yorkton is currently asking for submissions from Indigenous artists for the design of a series of bike lock stations to be placed in the downtown core on the poles that once held parking meters. 

It’s a great idea on two fronts. 

To start, anything which helps promote people being more active by riding bicycles to local stores is a good thing for the health of those people, and less vehicular traffic the longer one might hope pavement lasts too, or at least it’s easier to weave around potholes on a bike. 

The second front is anything that adds to community art is a good thing. 

It wasn’t so long ago, about 20-years or so, the idea of community art was put forward as a great way to create some tourist buzz about the city. It was suggested that if you spotted lots of community art around, people would want to come to see it, and while here looking at art they would be staying in hotels, buying meals, souvenirs, visiting stores, and generally stimulating the local economy. 

It was an idea that had some traction at the time with speakers and seminars held, a group formed and the first forays into public art creation undertaken, the murals adjacent to City Centre Park being the result of those efforts. 

But, the overall effort back then never gained great traction. 

There were of course some art pieces added around the city, the piece at Shaw Park because it was gifted from the province, murals at a couple of schools, the pieces at Scoops ice cream and the great sculpture at the Painted Hand Casino, but for the most part the idea fell by the wayside largely because you need many pieces to try to draw tourists in droves.  

The numbers never materialized, and the reason for that is at least in part because the City never really bought into the concept. 

There was much the City could have done, but didn’t. 

They could have set aside a parcel of dollars annually to fund art on City properties. There could easily be more art sculptures at Shaw Park, by City Hall, the fire Hall, the Gallagher Centre, along the walking path from Patrick Park to Broadway Street, and other spots in the city. 

Certainly there are lots of places to spend money as has been pointed out in this space previously, but if the City can invest millions in a new golf clubhouse and in retrofitting or replacing the Kinsmen Arena for sport it could have spent some dollars on the cultural society of the community funding art. 

Or, instead of writing the cheque directly, the City could have offered a tax break to businesses creating murals and sculptures. They have a program to encourage downtown business facades to be spiced up to make the city look better, so why not through art? 

The bike lock stands aren’t exactly going to cause a tourist stampede to get a look at the artistic design, but it could perhaps kickstart a forward thinking Council to look more closely at what it could do – meaning how can it help fund – more art. It’s an idea that enhances the community for residents and can entice tourists too, making it an idea worthy of another look.