The City of New Westminster is aiming to take a holistic look at public art rather than dealing with projects one by one.
Greg Magirescu, the city's manager of arts and cultural development, said public art can have a tremendous economic impact on a city. He noted that Chemainus on Vancouver Island was a "community in jeopardy" before it launched a public art program that features wall murals.
"That is what saved Chemainus," he said. "It put it on the map."
In addition to recent additions in Westminster Pier Park, other examples of public art in New Westminster include mosaic tiles in various commercial areas, the Puddle Jumper at Eighth Street and Royal Avenue, the tin solider at Westminster Quay and Ab oVo The Fertile Nest (Hyack Square).
Magirescu said cities that are good at public art have seen the benefits of those programs, including Seattle.
"It draws you to the city," he said. "It creates a sense of well-being. Tourists flock there. It lends itself to growth economically."
Staff is also proposing that the city establish a public art reserve fund, which would build over time and be used to fund public art initiatives.
As part of the process of developing a public art policy, the city's public art advisory committee recommended that Cameron Cartiere, dean of graduate studies at Emily Carr University, and Bill Petchet, an urban planner/architect/artist, speak to council about public art.
Cartiere told council Oct. 22 that public art used to be only about beautification, but it has taken on a role in developing sustainable communities.
"This is a driving issue in the public art field," she said. "It has for quite awhile."
Public art, said Cartiere, has the ability to help a community uncover its lost history, link communities, create new communities and revive a community's identity. She told council that there are times when projects aren't immediately well received in the community.
"It needs time to settle into to an enlivenment," she said. "It needs time for a community to really embrace it."
Cartiere showed city council examples of successful public art that's contributed to sustainability in communities in the United States, China and England.
"Sometimes it is really delicate to get it just right," she said. "Good public art is not a fix-all for bad public policy."
Mayor Wayne Wright suggested Cartiere visit Westminster Pier Park and view the public art components included in the park. These include a memory band that stretches along the length of the park, and images of the city's history that have been incorporated into the Lytton Square structure.
Wright also posed a "challenge" to Cartiere to consider how the city could develop a public art project in the Fraser River that incorporates the tides.
Cartiere immediately referenced Anthony Gormley's Another Place, which features a series of solid cast iron body forms that are placed in the water near a beach in Liverpool, England. She said the piece was intended to be temporary, but when it was set to be decommissioned, the community rallied to have the art remain in place.
"The idea was to test time and tide, stillness and movement and somehow engage with the daily life of the beach," says a statement on the artist's website.
Petchet showed council a series of images of public art, including many in Vancouver and North Vancouver. He told council not to underestimate the value that a small space can have on giving an area meaning.
Coun. Lorrie Williams noted that the city is working on a public art/war memorial project that's based on the well-known photograph, Wait for Me, Daddy. She said the city has asked artists for their vision for creating three statutes in traditional bronze.
Cartiere cautioned the city not to be "too tight" in its requests, as it will limit innovative responses.
"I would encourage that committee to be really open," she said.
While there is "comfort" in classic bronze figures, Cartiere said the city may want to consider something different if the city's goal is to create an iconic work that acts as a beacon and draws people to come and see the piece.
Magirescu said the city issued a call for proposals earlier this year, which stated that three bronze sculptures in situ - Latin for 'in their proper place' - was one of the city's requirements.
"That was determined by the task force that is doing the project," he said. "That was stipulated in the call to artists."
Although the use of three bronze statues were requirements, Magirescu said the rest of the piece was left to the artist's interpretation. The three statues would be located on the actual site of the photograph, which is now Hyack Square.
"There were a minimum of 15 we received. There may have been more," Magirescu said. "When you are talking about bronze works, it is specialized."
The request for bids and proposals, which had a deadline of Sept. 26, stated that the city is seeking the services of an artist specializing in bronze sculpture to create a life-size rendering of one of Canada's most famous wartime images, Wait for Me, Daddy.
Magirescu said the Wait for Me, Daddy memorial task force will be reviewing the proposals at its December meeting. He said the plan is to have the project complete in time for an unveiling on Oct. 4, 2014.
New Westminster city council will consider a proposed public art policy on Nov. 5.