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White Rock sculpture event to add extra arts interest to waterfront

Formal call for submissions to be issued soon
Choosing Hope, by Revelstoke artist Kyle Thornley, is one of the works that has been featured in the Castlegar Sculpturewalk, on which the White Rock Promenade Sculpture Competition will be modelled. Photo: Castlegar Sculpturewalk

A new event – the White Rock Promenade Sculpture Competition – is planned to run at the waterfront from Sept. 14, 2022 to Aug. 30, 2023.

But although it’s being planned by the White Rock Events Society, who formerly organized the Sea Festival and were involved in attempt to revive the White Rock Sandcastle Contest in 2018 and 2019, organizers Deanna Pedersen and Cindy Poppy want everyone to know that it won’t be on the beach – and won’t be including any sand sculptures.

“There won’t be sand involved in any way, shape or form,” Pedersen laughed, during a recent meeting with Peace Arch News.

READ ALSO: White Rock sandcastle competition on the rocks

Instead the trial project, unanimously endorsed by White Rock council at its March 28 meeting, will be modelled on Castlegar and Penticton’s successful sculpture walks, juried displays in those cities which include sculptures of all kinds arranged in outdoor high-traffic pedestrian areas.

White Rock’s display will feature 10 different sculptures, selected by an adjudication committee and positioned on the grass adjacent to the promenade, between the pier and the White Rock (P’Qalls).

There will be a cash prize of $15,000 for the ‘people’s choice’ of best sculpture (second prize $1,000, third prize $500) as well as a $5,000 first, $1,000 second and $500 third prize for sculptures the committee selects as having outstanding artistic merit.

“It’s an outdoor event, so we’ll be able to meet all present or future pandemic protocols; it’ll benefit artists and it’ll promote the city as an arts destination,” Pedersen said. “It’s a win-win-win.”

Council also approved a one-time contribution of $10,000 from the City’s 2022 operating contingency to fund in-kind expenses and a one-time $15,000 cash contribution to the White Rock Events Society funded from the City’s 2022 operating contingency to help launch the competition in 2022-23.

Both the monetary contributions and city assistance in placing prefabricated concrete pedestals for the sculptures, however, are contingent on the society raising some 75 per cent of its $75,000 sponsorship budget ($56,250) – but Pedersen and Poppy say they are confident they can reach the goals they set.

“We are in the next step, now, which is starting the sponsorship drive,” Poppy said.

“We literally just got the letter of endorsement from the mayor and council, which is a huge advantage in approaching sponsors. We have a list and now we can get started on that.”

Although council had initially rejected the proposal – on a staff recommendation – when it was first presented in February, a later motion by Coun. Erika Johanson brought it back for reconsideration and review.

In response to a question from Coun. Christopher Trevelyan, recreation and culture director Eric Stepura told council that staff now recommended the event.

“In the discussions we’ve had with the organizers we’ve clarified, and come to a decision, in terms of where it would go so that it wouldn’t impact other uses of the waterfront, such as the Artist’s Walk and where we have our various food vendors.

“Initially we thought they would need to excavate quite deep in order to put in poured-in-place concrete slabs, and that’s not the case. We’ve come up with a solution with some portable concrete slabs that we can put in, so that’s been resolved.

“The other issue is that, with the decision to go into a letter of memorandum (with the society), we can clarify, specifically, such things as the selection process for the art and the artists, and that’s also been agreed to.”

Pedersen and Poppy said they will shortly issue a formal call for submissions for sculptures, but that meanwhile artists who wish to submit their designs can get more information on the parameters by emailing

The competition is wide open in terms of style of work and choice and materials, they said. Although the plan for future years would be to select works that meet each year’s theme, competition entries this year don’t have to meet any thematic criteria, they added.

“The materials have to be able to survive a year in the elements, including the rain and the wind,” Poppy said. “They also have to be safe, knowing that people and children are going to interact with them.”

“We don’t want any sharp, pointed things,” Pedersen observed. “It’s inevitable that children are going to climb on them.”

The competition will also likely adhere to community standards in steering clear of sculptures that present unclothed human bodies, they said.

“Since Peace Arch Cultural Alliance and the city are going to be helping with the selection process, I doubt very much that they will approve anything that goes against this,” Poppy said.

Artists are also able – this year, at least – to submit previously-completed sculptures, for which designs of the finished work as well as photos can be submitted

Each artist selected for the 10 spots will receive an honorarium of $500, although works remain the property of the artists and are considered ‘on loan’ for the year.

If any works are sold during the year, the society will receive a 30 per cent commission per piece, Poppy said. At the conclusion of the year the society will hold a public auction for unsold works, in which all artists can participate, and for which the society will receive a commission of 30 per cent on the sale price.

The society will provide comprehensive insurance to cover the sculptures in event of theft or vandalism and public liability although insurance won’t cover any damage or liability for damage due to deficiencies in the construction of the sculpture, workmanship or materials.

“It’s very exciting,” Pedersen said. “Maybe we’ll have as many as 100 different designs submitted.”

“The Museum has said it will help us with the opening and the city said they will provide tents for us,” Poppy added.

“It’s starting to feel very good – it’s real now.”

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