A public art installation at the Parksville Forum is under debate for being more complicated and expensive than initially thought. (Emily Vance photo)

‘Soft Shore’ public art installation at Parksville city hall more expensive than planned

Plans to install centerpiece from MAC summer show hits roadblocks

The installation of a temporary piece of public art in the Parksville Forum is going to be more expensive than anticipated, according to a Parksville city staff verbal report at the Feb. 3 council meeting.

Council had approved a $3,500 budget for the installation of the piece in 2020, in honour of the city’s 75th birthday, and directed staff to seek seek approval from the building owners at 100 Jensen Ave. at the Oct. 17, 2019 council meeting.

Now city staff are saying that the project will cost considerably more than that.

The public art in question is the centerpiece from the McMillan Arts Centre’s Soft Shore exhibit.

The piece is a glass herring ball made by Robert Held surrounded by steel bull kelp made by Nelson Shaw with glass salmon by Christopher Smith.

READ MORE: MAC’s summer exhibit draws on internationally acclaimed local talent

Parksville city director of operations Vaughn Figueira says staff have met with the artists as well as the owners of the building to speak logistics.

“It’s a bit more of a complicated issue than initially thought,” said Figueira.

Part of the installation involves suspending 750 pounds of glass from the ceiling, which would be lit from above and below.

Because of this, Figueira said there are structural, logistic, electrical, liability and public safety issues to consider.

The installation will also require a metal fence to be constructed around it to keep children from climbing on it. This will also mean that holes have to be drilled into the floor.

Location was another main issue. The only place that could be agreed upon with building owners was the sunken area near the finance wickets.

“There would be an impact on the taxpayer time, when the public is lined up in that area. We’d have to sort of redirect them, and figure out a way to do it. We could accommodate them, but that would have to be sorted out,” said Figueira.

Of the $3,500 allocated, $1,000 of which was originally earmarked to cover staff time. Chief administrative officer Keeva Kehler says they’ve already spent more than that.

“We have to look at some permanent holes in the floor essentially to put the railings in, and some permanent structural changes to allow the 750 pounds to be hung from the trusses. I’m thinking we’re not going to be able to get that done for 10 times the price of what we’re originally thinking,” said Kehler.

READ MORE: Pickleball proponents present plan for Parksville park

Kehler also said that the city could not purchase the art without going through a competitive open bidding process and considering other pieces from the community as well as abroad.

Coun. Al Greir and Mayor Ed Mayne both voiced opposition to the project.

“The location that they want to put it in, in my view is not even secondary, it’s way out there as far as what it would look like. It would look like hell, sitting over there in my mind,” said Mayne.

“I could find better use for the money that we’re going to spend to put it up. Then we’re going to have the holes in the floors when it’s all over, then we’re going to have a fence … The problems seem to get more and more and more. … Let’s just call it a day and say it was a great idea, it’s just not going to work rather than keep on going on it.”

Coun. Doug O’Brien proposed several ideas but ultimately agreed that the money spent would probably not be worth it for a temporary installation.

Coun. Marilyn Wilson gave notice that she would propose a motion at the next council meeting that staff meet with the artists to discuss the issue further.

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