Windsor Arts Advocacy

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Here is a poem for City Council by Len Wallace.

Windsor City Council Members, This is a Poem!

(on the dismantlement of Ron Terada's artwork)

by Len Wallace

Have you heard?
They are removing art
from public property!
It has been relegated to the back
of a broom closet.
The jury says that
if don’t look like an animal,
or car,
it isn’t Art,
Especially if it says,

Windsor’s City Council
may know what Art is,
but they know what they like
and they don’t like that

I recommend they build
a new art - REAL art.
Let them build a statute
to Elvis!
Not the lithe buck who
drove white children into a frenzy
with his pelvic thrusts.
Rather, the bloated bull
who fed us misery as desire.
And when you admire the statute
you will completely forget that

We’ll fashion his statue
from the luminescent shell casings
of shattered Smart bombs
that fell over Baghdad.
Oh, it shall look very smart indeed!
And perhaps the viewer will feel
a little closer to home
not having to remember that

His arms shall be outstretched,
beckoning, as if to say,
"Come, this Land is yours
for the taking
(as long as you have the money)!"
If you have the bucks we want
Because if you do, then
feel secure even though

The base shall be built
from the gray bricks
of Jonquiere’s WAL-MART
where Quebecois workers
dared to unionise
and the company closed its
doors because it didn’t like
a labour force that dared to act as if
they had

The statue shall have a cape
- a white one that flutters in the wind
like a perfect symbol of our
city’s surrender.
Tourists can vomit their
cash at the Casino,
and drunken young men
can piss and vomit their guts
on the city streets,
their sensibilities protected,
from the fact that

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Letter Regarding Public Art

Public art is often the subject of controversy. Some view public art as a way for visual art to mix into mainstream society, while others believe art has no place outside museums. It is the combining of art and mainstream society that often induces conflict and perhaps even provokes vandalism of any given work. The public display of art makes it more susceptible to scrutiny and judgment, and in turn, opens it up to debate.

Much of, contemporary, visual art today is geared toward generating discussion in public spaces. The rejection of Ron Terada’s recent work plays into the theory that we are loosing our public spaces, especially when these spaces generate lively discussion and debate. The public and artists themselves have a right to express their ideas otherwise we might as well throw democracy out the window. You simply can’t have a democracy without shifting opinion.

But this is the way we are moving in North America. Sites of active protest are being further removed from events where the activities of everyday life are played out. Protests are cordoned off far from controversial events, meetings by government and big business are held behind closed doors, and the homeless are moved out of neighbourhoods to make room for economic interests. Instead of finding real solutions for the disenfranchised or controversial ideas we simply sweep them under the carpet. Why visual art is often made into an object of ridicule totally baffles me. If the city wants everything to be ornamental, and exist for entertainment value only, then it should say so. On the other hand, if it wants a vibrant diverse art community, it must yield some of its power to the cultural producers that live and work here. The lack of art comprehension by city council often shifts from art ignorance to feelings of art-offensiveness. This offensiveness appears to dictate whether an artwork is appropriate or not. The argument to censor in the short run results in the total suppression of ideas in the long run.

Under Schedule B of the Constitution Act, 1982, in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it is made clear that everyone has the right to:
"freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication."

Canada already has a cultural policy, which contradicts the recent removal of Ron Terada’s work on the local level. Here is an excerpt:

“[Canada’s artists work]…Through a government policy that promotes the arts and whose primary goal is cultural, individuals are familiarized with the characteristics of their own society and their sense of belonging and cultural identity are strengthened. The role of artists is not only to mirror the values of the society in which they live, but also to reflect on the issues that society must address if it is to know itself better. The role of the State in this regard is to support artistic activity, to provide creators with conditions favorable to the practice of their art, and to ensure access to their work by the general public.”

So what are we to make of this? Certainly all parties involved have expressed interest in drafting a public art policy and this is especially important when it comes to the preservation of our cultural sovereignty on this side of the border.
In the end an individual may disagree with the intent of public art, but by removing it from the public sphere, we allow ourselves to give up freedoms that are fundamental to our rights as citizens. We seem to forget the many harsh battles that were fought to gain this ground in the first place. If the City of Windsor is serious about a public art policy I urge them to look at the City of Winnipeg’s Art Policy. Winnipeg, which is one of the last cities to adopt a municipal art policy, is made up of a volunteer board reporting to the Winnipeg Arts Council. The committee's members represent the arts, design, architectural and general communities. With a model such as this in place for Windsor much of the burden would be taken off City Council.

Troy David Ouellette

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Zuk criticizes art's removal

Zuk criticizes art's removal
Councillor says debate should have been public

Roseann Danese
Windsor Star
Friday, September 30, 2005

The lone city councillor who voted against taking down a controversial public art project from the riverfront is steamed about its removal -- and how it was done.

"I'm absolutely furious about this," said Coun. Joyce Zuk, who opposed removing the 'You have left the American sector' sign that was installed on the city's waterfront park last week.

"Council (originally) had a public debate about this issue, so if council wants to have a debate that says don't put it up, have it in a public forum."

The issue was discussed last Friday via private e-mail exchanges between the mayor's office and councillors.

City officials refused to release the e-mails Thursday. The city's freedom of information officer said he will review the material and likely release the exchanges next week, after personal references are taken out.

The Star has learned that Coun. Dave Brister wrote that the sign should be taken to the city dump.

But with the price of gas, he thought "perhaps we could have one of our empty Transit Windsor buses transport" it. He described the artwork as a "waste of time, money and space."

Brister would not comment on specific e-mails on Thursday, but did say "the time and effort allotted to this sign debate is beyond ridiculous and I can assure you that the majority of council is focused on much more important issues.

"This reminds me of the corn flakes fiasco of several years ago which much like this ... provided no benefit to the community but most definitely benefited the individual," Brister said.

Coun. David Cassivi wrote the sign was "making a mockery" of the renowned sculpture gardens. And Coun. Alan Halberstadt said the city should suggest to the Art Gallery of Windsor the sign be placed in a "broom closet."

"I guess some people made some gratuitous remarks," Halberstadt said Thursday, "but the main thing was the vote."

Mayor Eddie Francis said Thursday that his chief of staff, Norma Coleman, sent the e-mails to survey councillors on the issue.

The communication asked whether they would support having city officials approach the art gallery, asking that the sign be removed from the riverfront and placed on the gallery's property.

Francis defended the move to discuss the matter via e-mail rather than publicly at a council meeting because time was of the essence.

The mayor's office, he said, was inundated with complaints and calls had also come in from Casino Windsor officials, who were concerned about the potential negative interpretation of the sign by U.S. visitors.

Fox 2 news was also preparing to broadcast a story for Friday's newscast. "We had American media who were ready to blow this thing up," the mayor said. "What we're trying to do is make sure we're protecting tourism and not giving people another reason to slam the City of Windsor in a negative way."

The approval to install the sign was granted by city administrators. It came to council as a done deal, as an information-only matter.
But the issue was raised at the Sept. 19 council meeting by Cassivi, who questioned the artistic merits of the sign, which was produced at the artist's request by the city's road sign department.

Francis said the issue will result in a new policy for the handling of public art projects that might be displayed in parks. "The new policy will be: Whenever there's not a policy on the books, everything has to come to council."

Zuk said the city's move to remove the sign is a slap in the face to the Art Gallery of Windsor. "They are busting a gut to be a world class gallery and they shouldn't have to put up with being censored by city council. ... Do we have nothing better to be taking care of?"

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Ron Terada Photo

Letter Regarding Removal of Ron Terada Artwork

As part of the larger show at the Art Gallery of Windsor Ron Terada recently made headlines in the Windsor Star as city councilors voiced concern about the potential for mixed-messages. Checkpoint Charlie takes the form of a road sign that reads ‘You are now leaving the American Sector’ in both official languages.

Border Zones proposes to investigate the status and nature of boundaries in contemporary culture: the liminial spaces and paradoxical situations that we find ourselves in as a result of contemporary social and political realities.

Here is the first of many letters that will be posted to this site...

September 28, 2005

To Whom It May Concern:

We believe this story might be of interest to your readership.

This sign was approved by the City Council of Windsor, Ontario for a four-month exhibition on the Windsor waterfront. It is a work of public art by the Vancouver-based artist, Ron Terada who financed its production.

After an in-camera meeting held by City Council last Friday, they made the decision to remove the artwork without consultation with the artist, the Art Gallery of Windsor, or any public discussion.

The same city employees who were designated with the task of erecting the sign five days ago were dispatched, this morning, September 28, 2005 to remove the sign at 6:30 am.

This is a situation that warrants the urgency for policies regarding public art, and more open communication between the City Council and its respective constituencies.

The actions taken by the Council represent the active censorship of free expression in this country. This hasty and paranoid response will negatively impact Windsor’s reputation in the cultural realm for decades to come.

Lee Rodney, PhD., Assistant Professor, University of Windsor
Sigi Torinus, Assistant Professor, University of Windsor