Beginning next Monday, the public will be invited to have their say on what public art pieces will be installed at the new Airdrie Multi-Use and Library Facility. According to The City, selected artworks by four shortlisted teams will be available for public comment.

Claudia Usuga, Project Coordinator with the City of Airdrie explained that art is very important to the new facility, not only for its aesthetics but also because it is through public art, that the library and Airdrie will be able to build upon strengthening community identity and culture, as well as promote economic development.

"The hope is that the community [can] give their opinion on the different pieces and that they let us know what they like," she added. "All these opinions will be given to the selection panel for consideration when they are selecting the pieces that are going to go into the facility."

Clay Aragon, Manager of Culture, Heritage and Events explained that 96 applications from artists all across Canada, with four submissions from Airdrie, were submitted to the Public Art Selection Panel (PASP).

"Council directed the development of a public art selection panel, and so this group that's been appointed by council, to look at the types of experiences that those artists have and narrow down that selection [of] artists," Aragon explained. "We want this multi-use facility and library to be a catalyst for the downtown. We want it to be a place for community and development to happen and a meeting place for everybody."

According to the City, the PASP consists of five voting members, including one elected official, one member of the Airdrie Arts and Culture Council, one local or regional professional artist, two citizen members with an interest and understanding of Airdrie’s history and heritage, as well as City administration and/or consultants in a supportive and non-voting capacity.

"The art selected for placement at the Airdrie Multi-Use Facility and Library should reflect the artwork themes endorsed by Council. The selected artwork should align with one of the following themes: natural features of the Airdrie Multi-Use Facility and Library site and/or in Airdrie, local Indigenous history or contemporary culture, Airdrie's rural farming history or agricultural origins, and Airdrie's railroad history," the City's website states.

The selected artwork should also align with the following public art objectives for the Airdrie Multi-Use Facility and Library, which includes: 

  • Enhance the quality of life for both visitors and established neighbouring communities.
  • Add value to the cultural, aesthetic and economic vitality of the facility.
  • Build civic engagement and social capital and encourage civic discourse.
  • Help reinforce a strong sense of community pride, ownership and a sense of belonging.
  • Celebrate community identity and culture.
  • Promote economic development and tourism.
  • Create jobs in creative industries.

Aragon said that he hopes the art selected to be placed in the library will become a sort of iconic meeting place for visitors and locals alike.

"The kind of spirit, that's the kind of culture, and that's the kind of identity [we are looking at]."

He said that the art should encapsulate not only Airdrie's past culture but its present and future. Because art and what is art, what is good art and what makes art beautiful is so subjective, Aragon said much time has been spent on this topic, which is why the civic engagement portion is so important. 

"That's what really art does, is that it allows for the community to come together, but it also allows for public discourse... That's the vibe we're trying to get for this and I think that all those dimensions of public art piece[s] are going to be considered as part of this; [the] celebrating of] community identity, the representation of different kinds of culture; does everybody feel some sort of attachment or alignment to those art pieces?"

When asked what sort of art Usuga and Aragon take inspiration from in their personal lives, Usuga said one of her favourite art pieces, and one that is arguably a timeless icon; is the statue of David in Florence. Aragon agreed with his colleague that the statue of David is reflective of Florence, something that underpins what Florence is, and that is what he hopes can be achieved in Airdrie.

"I think for me, art is wherever you see it, and it's the appreciation of the culture, the innovation, science, the beauty and the people of whatever the community that you go to  - and that's what's exciting for me."

The public engagement will run until June 2. 

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