The Kitimat Public Art Alliance (KPAA) won’t be getting any money from the District of Kitimat until it first comes up with other sources for its $250,000 plan to paint murals on local buildings.
Alliance members Vanessa Cuoto, Barbara Campbell and Laurel D’Andrea made their pitch for $60,000 to the council, on May 31, but were turned down.
“Right now we’re going to be the only funder at this because you don’t have any other money. Usually, things like this would come to us when [applicants] have secured other funding,” Mayor Phil Germuth said.
Though property owners at the potential mural locations have agreed to donate their walls to the project, Germuth also wondered if there’s a policy to make property and business owners accountable for maintaining mural walls.
D’Andrea said property owners have agreed to a five-year minimum commitment to the installation of the murals.
“If there’s cracks or foundation problems they’ll have to fix those. Also, owners will also have to whitewash their walls so it’s prepped for the muralist to come in,” she said.
Still skeptical about the project agenda, Germuth says he’s still not in support of the project until a policy with staff and business owners has been established.
“The concern is that [the projects are taking place] on buildings we have no control over. And even you do have a contract with the building owner, the building still has the potential of being sold [within the five-year agreement] and then the new owners say nice mural but I want to side the whole thing, or something else; then that’s taxpayers money gone,” said Germuth.
Dustin Rutsatz, district finance director told the council any money for the alliance would have to come out of the District’s reserves and that the ability to do that is reaching its limit.
Councillor Mario Feldhoff spoke in favour of the request, highlighting the district’s ability to provide more money for road repairs and the impact a mural project can have on the community.
“We found a lot of money last week for paving, perhaps more than we needed, so I think we have the flexibility to do this,” Feldhoff said. “It’s an important project and it’s good to see so many people in the community working together for a common cause.”
With Germuth asking about how much each mural would cost on average, D’Andrea broke down the funding needed per mural saying she would need about $25,000 to $30,000 per wall.
As Councillors Rob Goffinet, Lani Gibson, and Mark Zelinksi were excluded from the voting process because they declared a conflict of interest before the delegation request, Feldhoff pushed a motion forward for $30,000 this year and $30,000 for next year, so one mural can be completed in 2021.
Although Councillor Terry Marleau was also in favour, the motion was denied as Councillor Edwin Empinado and Mayor Germuth voted against the project.
D’Andrea suggested she will come back to the council at a later date with a more concrete plan which hopefully will relieve their worries.
The KCPAA would have used the $60,000 for the first two of four planned phases, focussing on murals within the city centre this year and next. Phases three and four would see murals painted on walls within the Nechako and Service Centre areas.
“The need for this visual focuses on the history, the natural resources, the marvellous nature, the people, the culture, and the future of our community,” alliance member Vanessa Cuoto said during the delegation request.
“Kitimat has been asking for a change that’s engaging and entertaining. […] Art creates a silent bridge between children, youth, and adults. So I think supporting this project will only get us further ahead.”
“As beautiful as Kitimat is, there’s always room for more colour,” Cuoto said.