July 21, 2016

Dear Mayor and Council,

We are dismayed City Council has brought forward a vote for Monday July 25, to consider opening the City of Whitehorse’s Art Policy up for debate.

The existing policy states that 1% of new construction budgets must support public art.

The Yukon Arts Centre feels very strongly that this is an important policy, and that opening the policy for debate could be detrimental to the cultural atmosphere of Whitehorse. 

Virtually every major city in Canada has a similar public art policy, and we note that the capital of NWT, Yellowknife commits 1.5% of new construction budgets to public art. The Yukon Arts Centre feels that opening the policy for discussion with regard to one project has the potential of allowing the policy to be altered in ways that would negatively impact Whitehorse.  Whitehorse is now recognized nationally as an arts & culture destination with Magnetic North Theatre Festival, the annual Adäka Cultural Festival as excellent examples. The City of Whitehorse Art Policy is something to be proud of and we should continue cultivating our cultural contributions as capital city.

“The value of public art cannot be derived solely from an assessment of completed works, but must include its impact as a significant economic driver, its collaborative and complementary value as a component of public spaces, and its social value as a means through which to express, reflect and enjoy our city.”  City of Calgary Public Art Policy

Coun. Boyd suggested that only city staff would actually see the art, however the magnificent horse sculpture “Whitehorse” by Daphne Mennell, on top of two mile hill was commissioned for the emergency services building. This is a building that only city staff use, yet the sculpture has become a Whitehorse icon which reflects the distinct character of our city.

Further, Mennell’s sculpture is excellent example how art can build relationships between diverse groups. The entire piece is made from pieces of donated metal from Yukoners often with stories and memories attached to scraps, engaging and embodying residents of all backgrounds, age, and cultures. In the artist’s words “It is a public art piece made possible by the public.” This is the kind of project that makes us proud to live here and we congratulate the City of Whitehorse for its Art Policy leadership.

We urge Mayor and Council to vote down opening up the City of Whitehorse Art Policy. Let us not only stay in line with the rest of the country with similar policies, but also celebrate public art as it enhances and gives meaning to our home by interpreting the social, historical, cultural and natural environment that makes Whitehorse so special.


The Yukon Arts Centre

photo: Daphne Mennell