Kevin Wright stands beside one of the art pieces that will be installed in the Uptown area. ELENA RARDON PHOTO

Kevin Wright stands beside one of the art pieces that will be installed in the Uptown area. ELENA RARDON PHOTO

Art project will brighten Uptown area in Port Alberni

Proposal relies on sponsorships, not tax dollars

Uptown Port Alberni could be brightened up by a few art installations in the coming weeks, thanks to a project started by Kevin Wright of the Uptown Merchants Association.

Wright has been working on a proposal to bring culture and community together, by partnering with local artists to construct art installations that will bring a “cultural element” to the Uptown area. Wright brought an example of one sculpture to a city council meeting on Monday, June 25 and asked permission from the city to install the first four pieces on Argyle Street and Third Avenue by the middle of next month.

Wright said he brought the concept to council once before, but was halted by financing.

“This time, we’ve found a way around the financial issue,” he explained on Monday.

The pillars, made of steel and weighing 400 pounds, will be purchased by sponsorship. Approximately 10 of them are already paid for, said Wright. The only expense for the city will be the cost of bolting steel plates down to the street.

“Otherwise, there are no tax dollars whatsoever—not a single penny—going to this project,” he said.

Wright has a vision of the installations starting at the Rollin Art Centre and travelling down the hill to the waterfront. He said he hopes to have around 60 or 70 sculptures installed in the long run. A board of five people will be convened to ensure that all the artwork is safe, appropriate and well-made.

“My focus is really on the cultural impact of this community,” Wright explained. “We have so many people with so much talent and so much character in their culture and we have little access to them. This is a way for the artist to actually showcase their art and their culture to the community on the street.”

Each artist will retain ownership of their artwork, and the pieces will be for sale, as art can be changed out from each pillar. Wright called it a “2,000-foot- long art gallery.”

He noted that there are always concerns about vandalism when it comes to public art. But he also pointed out that most of the murals and other sculptures in the community have not been touched. “Most of the artists have a great amount of confidence that they won’t be attacked or maligned,” he said. “They believe in their community that much, and I’m hoping that the rest of the community believes the same thing.”

Wright also has a plan for maintenance. The Rollin Art Centre is acting as the contractor for the purchase of art pieces. A one percent commission from each sale will go into an accrued fund that the Community Arts Council will take care of. Extra fees, such as damage, will be addressed through this fund.

Council granted permission on Monday for Wright to install the first four pieces, with caveats that the city’s engineering department must approve the site and location of any artwork and that the Rotary Arts District must provide a firm letter of support.

Councillor Sharie Minions acknowledged the concerns about safety in the Uptown area.

“I think there’s a lot of value in investing in beautification and streetscapes and artwork,” she said. “It’s populating the street and making a place that people want to run businesses and live in that makes a huge difference. It’s not the whole piece of the puzzle but it’s definitely part of it.”