Squamish's municipal 2014 wish list grew a little bigger this week, leaving some tough budget decisions on the new year's doorstep.
Last April, District of Squamish officials backed a $20,000 request to partner with the two-year Vancouver Biennale outdoor art exhibit. The program is responsible for many of Vancouver's iconic public pieces, including English Bay's bronze sculpture known as A-maze-ing Laughter. Another $20,000 was donated by the community to bring the multi-faceted initiative to Squamish, district planner Sabina Foofat told council on Tuesday (Dec. 17).
Now Biennale is back at the table, with a quadrupled district funding request and programming to match. The new components amount to $113,696, broken down into 66,000 municipal dollars and $47,696 worth of in-kind operating costs. It's a big price tag for a big opportunity, Foofat said.
Famed Brazilian artist Vik Muniz is confirmed under the original sum. That money doesn't cover site preparations. Nor does it pay for a platform for people to view his work tentatively set to be located on the tear-drop-shaped property near Squamish's entrance, just off Cleveland Avenue.
With the new cash, Biennale officials are proposing a two-year artist in residency program based at Quest University. Up to 20 international artists would visit the community for six- to eight-week stays to work on art projects focusing on Squamish. The municipal bill amounts to $1,500 per artist, covering 25 per cent of their residency, with Quest picking up the remainder. The overall sum also includes additional art installations, according to a staff report.
Biennale officials have been active on their end, Foofat noted. Their in-kind fundraising in Squamish amounts to approximately $103,000.
“It would be matched almost to the dollar,” Foofat said.
The request comes at a time when district staff were asked to present a zero per cent property tax revenue increase to council to kick off 2014 municipal budget discussions. The Biennale figures are not included in the proposed 6.2 per cent tax increase that maintains the district's current service level, warned Corien Speaker, Squamish's chief administrative officer. However, staff did find wiggle room in council's contingency fund, amounting to $86,761.
Coun. Ron Sander urged the request be weighed alongside the district's other priorities. Although he said he supports the original project, the new proposal may take away from community grants and other items facing the chopping block.
It's difficult to place a dollar figure on community engagement, Coun. Patricia Heintzman said, noting the arts have historically been neglected in Squamish.
“I think this is a fantastic opportunity and likely one we are not going to see for a while,” she said.
The request amounts to peanuts when officials take into account how much the district has spent on sports infrastructure, Coun. Susan Chapelle said. Vancouver Biennale reaches far beyond an outdoor art exhibit, she noted. The program integrates into the local school system with educational initiatives, Chapelle said.
“I am fully supportive of this,” she said. “I am sure we can get some of those numbers a little lower.”
Council referred the request to the budget process. It will come to the table in early January.