Saturday, February 11, 2023

Crediting the Creators of Public Art

Maureen (my partner) and I have often noticed in our various travels that it’s very unusual for cities and towns to acknowledge the artist(s) in any way when statues or other artistic works are erected in public places. There is usually a plaque (often two or three plaques) crediting the city and whichever companies may have contributed to help fund the creation of a work of art, but almost invariably there is nothing to identify the creator. During the holidays we came across examples both in Victoria and in New Westminster of statues whose creators were entirely unacknowledged, despite the presence of various plaques noting when the statues had been erected and which local bodies or organizations had provided financial support. Back home in Nanaimo, we then noticed that the wonderful totem pole that the city put up not long ago in Maffeo Sutton Park by the waterfront was also unaccompanied by any information as to its creator. To be sure, information as to the creator has been available on the city’s website: “the Welcome Pole is a 49 foot tall carving by Snuneymuxw Master Carver Noel Brown, located in Spirit Square at Maffeo Sutton Park / Sway'a'Lana.” But it would be great to see credit given onsite to the person who actually designed and carved the pole.

This one has a happy ending. When I emailed the mayor and the city councilors a few days ago to raise this issue, the Mayor (Leonard Krog) responded promptly with word that in this case a plaque crediting Noel Brown was already in the works.

Here’s hoping that city officials elsewhere can be similarly responsive--and that the creators of works of public art in cities everywhere can be similarly credited in the future!

[Update, 4 April 2023: Interestingly, even the most renowned creators can still go uncredited when it comes to art in public places. Maureen and I were in Seattle last weekend, and were struck by a three-piece sculpture in front of a building at 1001 4th Ave. We thought the work was probably a Henry Moore, but there was nothing at all identifying the artist; only by googling afterwards did we find out that it is indeed a Henry Moore (one of eight casts made of a 1968-69 work entitled "Vertebrae").]

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