Thursday, April 7, 2011

Vertical Realty & Why Calgary needs a living, growing, inspired, visionary, innovative, experimental, original Art Policy

Vertical Realty, Empty Spaces, Dead Energy
Why Calgary needs a living, growing, inspired, visionary, innovative, experimental, original Art Policy

Calgary has 1000's of "horizontal realtors", people who sell homes, commercial/industrial property or land everyday. Economically, we place a value on these properties and have constructed a massive trade, permitting & zoning system around the process of buying & selling horizontal realty.

Presently there is no system or process in place that allows us to identify and value vertical realty (walls, fences, poles, pillars, et al) for the purpose of cultural innovation, presentation, community beautification and artistic advancement.

Yes, we have an advertising industry that utilizes vertical realty to sell us products and services via outdoor advertising.

Vertical Realty as part of a Calgary Art & Cultural Policy that nourishes the roots of our society, requires our attention and focus in order to grow. Crafting an Art Policy that recognizes the important contribution of public art presented on vertical realty and the economic multipliers associated with employing artists, purchasing materials and beautification of our realtime, human scale environment, is the essence of advancing concepts.

While our city is about to embark on a Land Inventory & a Food Assessment (LIFA), we should also launch a Vertical Realty/Cultural Spaces Inventory & Cultural Assessment. Once completed, we can easily match artists, groups & cultural organizations with the available space.

Included in the inventory analysis would be vacant/empty buildings that could be occupied by community building tenants. This strategy of creating incentives for property owners to allow access to community building & cultural groups was used effectively in Glasgow to rebuild the downtown core in the 80's & 90's, as well as Glasgow being voted the Most Culturally Vibrant City in Europe. Property owners were given a reduction on their taxes, sometimes as much as 100%, if they allowed empty buildings to be utilized by community building groups.

The same tactic could be used to encourage property owners to offer their Vertical Realty to artists. The City of Calgary Hoarding Project presently provides for a 25% discount on hoarding related costs for construction sites. I believe this should be increased in order for the sector to grow and mature, but it is a start.

From a risk management perspective, CADA (Calgary Arts Development Authority) could take a leadership role by underwriting the risk through a group plan. By doing this, CADA would eliminate one of the most onerous barriers to public art, public expression and community building... liability coverage.

A progressive and robust art policy that creates incentives for increased cultural opportunities is urgently needed in Calgary.

Paul Hughes