The chair of the City of White Rock’s Public Art Advisory Committee – internationally known visual artist Jim Adams – says he’s going to skip any further meeting of the city’s Gateway Feature Selection Committee, partly because of the haste in which the process is being conducted.
Council has already earmarked $1 million as part of its Gateway Project for an ornamental archway over Johnston Road, just inside city limits on the White Rock side of North Bluff Road.
The first meeting of the committee – which plans to make a recommendation to council on a design in time for a decision at the May 24 meeting – was on May 8.
An open house presenting design options to the public was scheduled for yesterday (Tuesday), an online residents’ survey on the options is set to close on Thursday and the next meeting of the committee is set for the day after that.
But Adams – a White Rock resident and past Surrey Civic Treasure – said he’s not likely to attend.
Adams confirmed to Peace Arch News that he had threatened to resign at the first committee meeting due to his concerns – which include his opinion that what the committee is considering is simply “infrastructure,” rather than “a work of art.”
“I believed the decision had already been made beforehand,” he said last week. “I just thought there are other ways of doing this to make the city more attractive to visitors; to give them a reason to come to White Rock, rather than an archway. There’s no reason for me to attend any further meetings – all the decisions have been made.”
Gateway Feature Selection Committee chair Grant Meyer said Monday that, while he respects Adams’ opinion, the committee will continue to go through its process, including weighing public input, which could involve delays and revisions.
“Depending on what happens, the committee could ask for changes in the plans,” Meyer said. “In doing something like this, my choice – if it’s between getting something done and getting it right – is getting it right.
“I guess it comes down to whether you think it’s public art or not. Do you have just a public art piece or (a gateway) that has some public-art elements in it?”
Meyer noted that when a committee of council – of which he was a member – was considering the installation of archway lights on White Rock pier, there was public opposition to both the cost and the esthetics.
“We took a bit of a chance when we voted for that, but I don’t think I’ve heard anything since then except that they’re beautiful.”
Adams said that, as originally discussed by the Public Art Advisory Committee with council and staff, the gateway area would have featured a public art project, which, he noted, could have cost significantly less than the current $1 million price tag.
In March, the advisory committee – noting the emergence of an archway theme in discussions with staff – asked council for guidance on such a public art work, including dimensions, cost, timeline and how the city wished to represent itself before putting out a public call to artists for proposals.
“Somewhere along the line it was decided they want an infrastructure piece,” Adams said, adding that all three options currently under consideration only present a simple archway with the words “White Rock, City by the Sea,” flanked by the words “Johnston Road” and “Arts & Culture.”
“It’s not a piece of art,” Adams said. “It was said there was not enough to delineate White Rock from South Surrey, which is true – I see the point. But I thought, considering that whatever it is is going to be there a minimum of 50 years, you should take your time, make sure you’re getting something you’re happy with and people are happy with and not grumbling at.”
Adams said it was clear to him that the committee – vice-chaired by Coun. Bill Lawrence, and including chief administrative officer Dan Bottrill – wanted to have a design in place by the time the city unveils the first portion of its revised gateway plan.
“It seemed to me my input wasn’t really needed at that point,” he said.
Adams said he raised the fact that the appearance and scale of the archway options don’t take into account the way the city around it will actually look to visitors and residents – the 23-storey Oceana PARC Retirement Living currently under construction, for instance, does not appear in the current three-dimensional renderings, nor do the two new Miramar towers or a 26-storey tower now approved for the Royal Bank Plaza.
“(City consultants) said they didn’t have enough information to put the buildings in,” Adams said. “But it doesn’t give you a true picture. What will new buildings do to the scale of that arch?”
Meyer said Monday he thinks that renderings of the archway options could be revised to show at least a suggestion of the mass of the new buildings.
But Adams said he is still concerned the archway will not be representative of the reality of White Rock in the near future.
“The entry into the city is going to be considerably changed in the next couple of years, and even more in the next five or six years, when there will likely be another highrise where the (Scotiabank) is now,” he said.
“It’s going to be an entryway into a fairly sophisticated urban area – it isn’t a sleepy little town with a beach and seagulls, anymore, and people are beginning to come to a realization of that.”
Coun. Lynne Sinclair, who also sits on the committee, did not return phone calls by PAN’s press deadline Tuesday.