By Camille Aubin

We rarely give art much thought in our day-to-day lives. Some people view public art as a luxury or pleasure, that people ought only indulge while visiting an art gallery (of which the valley has many). However, art serves a deeper meaningful purpose.

There are cities such as Athens (Greece), Florence (Italy) and Paris (France) that have drawn attention from all over the globe for their remarkable architecture and artistic achievements. Unique structures such as monuments, statues, and architecture in these cities, in addition to museums and galleries, set them apart. On a smaller scale, a few key art pieces could do the same for towns here in the Columbia Valley. Even if art does not solely drive our economy, it can enhance and enrich it.

Public art contributes to the unique character and sense of pride in our communities, aside from playing a part in boosting investment and economic development. In addition to improving the overall aesthetics of a neighbourhood, public art adds value to the broader community and the surrounding area. When considering the possibility of a public art project, it seems the village of Canal Flats fully understood that. “These days, if you want to attract residents, attract jobs, whether its self-employed entrepreneurs, small enterprises, or large enterprises, they care about living in, or having their employees live in, nice places. So there are two reasons (for ‘The Portal’): one is community pride. We all want to be proud of our community, and visible expression of creativity is part of that. The other reason is attracting investment,” explained Canal Flats economic development officer Chris Fields. (Read full story on page 3)

In a world in which everything can all too often seem all too much alike, creating a unique sense of community identity is a great — perhaps even crucial — step toward preserving community culture and heritage. It’s creativity incarnate. An eye-catching piece of public art breaks through the pleasant if monotonous humdrum of the quotidian pace of everyday life, giving communities a refreshing breath of personality. They can give us, as individuals, a sense of belonging to something greater than ourselves. In other words, a sense of community.

Aside from giving residents reason, space and inspiration for reflexive pause, public art installations are a surefire way to catch the attention of those passing through town. This can lead these visitors into some reflection on a town’s history and environment. Public arts generally represent part of the town’s history in an abstract way, and in so doing create a place filled with meaning, and hopefully, connection.

The spirit of towns and communities where we live and visit unquestionable benefits from public art. That is why all valley residents should be proud of the recent boom in public art installations here: ‘The Portal’ in Canal Flats, and the recent ‘Big Horns’ at the roundabout of Radium. Regardless of whether your artistic tastes align with these piece’s creators, you have to agree that with them, our communities become more distinctive, more memorable, and more welcoming.