Painting Gabriola’s hydro poles

painted Hydro poleThis is the intersection of North Road and South Road, seen from the Gabriola Post Office. And, oh my, look what’s happened to the hydro pole! It’s become a giant yellow pencil. This is the first painted pole I’ve seen, but apparently there will be many more on the island. Kathy Ramsay’s article in The Sounder explains:

In partnership with BC Hydro, the Gabriola Arts Council has permission to paint the island’s hydro poles. How fun is that, eh?

But the arts council has a bigger vision than just painting the odd pole here and there. GAC envisions an island-wide public art installation that is both cohesive and tasteful while reflecting the art, culture and history of this beautiful island. [continue]

If you’ve got painted poles on your part of the island (or other interesting things, really) I’d love to see them. Let me know if you’ve got a photo you’d like to send.

UPDATE/see also: This would blend in.

42 responses

  1. Given how much of a fuss is usually made on this island about community consultation, where was it in the agreement between the Gabriola Arts Council and BC Hydro regarding this project?

    I am a firm believer that the physical environment, insofar as it is shaped by humans, should be determined by the people who live in a place. This is one of the reasons why I don’t miss living in Vancouver, where more and more of the physical environment is determined by corporate advertising. But while I am relieved that our hydro poles are not plastered in advertisements for Coca Cola products, I’m not happy at all that a small group of Gabriolans have taken it upon themselves to foist their art project on our environment, especially not since the result is to make these hydro poles stand out more, when every effort should be made to making them blend in with the natural trees around them. So now, whether we want it or not, we have a gigantic yellow post at the junction of North Road and South Road. Yes, it’s a pencil and that’s momentarily witty and clever, but mostly it is just a gigantic bright yellow thing where there used to be something that, however bald, still resembled the tree trunk that it once was.

    The Gabriola Arts Council is a private non-profit society with no democratic mandate beyond its membership to make decisions about our physical environment. There seems to be no public oversight of its initiatives, and not even the informal local consultation about what art might be inflicted on a neighbourhood. ‘How fun is that, eh?’

  2. Correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t remember seeing a survey or questionnaire or a request of any kind asking the people WHO LIVE HERE if they would like to see painted telephone poles scattered all over our Island which by the way I believed people have tried to keep in the natural as much as humanly possible for years. Now we have to look at a huge ugly (no matter how skillfully painted) pencil every time we need to go to the ferry or the other side of the Island. Whats next, pink plastic flamingos on the front lawn of the cop shop?

  3. P.S. How long do you think it’ll take before someone adds a little of their own graffiti to these painted poles. Then how will they look? Will you scrap the project or spend all your time repainting your artwork?

  4. Hmmm…I don’t think painting a telephone pole is such a problem. I saw the one on the way to the ferry…thought it was kind of cute! It’s not as if every pole is painted…just a few…enjoy the view folks!

  5. I suppose art as in beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I also think there is not much accounting for bad taste. After the novelty wears off, would anyone think it is kind of cute when there’s a giant purple lollipop across the street from your house and you have to look at everyday for the rest of the time you live there, day in and day out? NO THANKS.

  6. I feel we are all winners when we get to discuss things that impact not only part of our community, but our community as a whole.

    I felt a winner when there was discussion related to the firehall. A winner when the concerns of the folks who live near and use the gun club were and are being addressed. A winner when discussion was open regarding the new medical clinic.

    However when a small non-profit group (GAC) with a focus (the arts) decide to speak for the whole community I do not feel a winner. In fact I think we could all become “Champions of the Arts” if we realize that such matters as Public Art need to be discussed by the whole community prior to going ahead with a similar project.

  7. Hmmm…perhaps you could contact the painters, and ask them to paint it over if it bothers you. I’m sure they could do it a nice neutral colour that would blend in. I don’t think their intention was to annoy but just to have a bit of fun. Many of them remind of works by Claes Oldenburg from the late 60s and early 70s….there now I’m revealing my age as well…but seriously, if it bothers you then ask them to paint it over for you.

  8. Sorry Kate if I or the other folks haven’t made themselves clear. We aren’t just concerned with what colors are being used, but the fact that we as home owners should have the right to decide whether painted poles appear in front of our house, not the GAC. Besides this matter is better dealt with by confronting our concerns to BC Hydro I am sure they will do what is best for the community.

  9. I was just phoned and told that BC Hydro has cancelled the whole deal- partially because GAC was given permission to paint 6 poles, not 18 + as was mentioned, and partially because they received quite a number of pissed off phone calls.

    The issue here isn’t about the love of or dislike of art, but about what ‘picture’ someone else gets to choose to hang in your ‘living room’ without your say so.

    I have the pencil outside my driveway, and I’m ok with that, but had it been something I didn’t like I might have been upset with it being imposed on me.

    I hope the project will end up going ahead, but I can see it will be necessary to somehow get the public’s acceptance of the subject matter first.

    I especially don’t think the artists should take this as a rejection of their talents, anymore than the firefighters should have taken the uproar over the firehall personally, but no doubt it is hard to separate.

    I guess this could be considered part of the artists ‘suffering’ for their art? (Attempt at humour)

  10. Ah I hadn’t realized a lot of that…yes, it should have been by choice…none for those who don’t want and if someone likes them well they can do a set of them for their enjoyment…what was the purpose of doing it in the first place? That is what escapes me…anybody know?

  11. B.C. Hydro has decided that they only approve the painting of poles if there is acceptance from the community. After receiving a lot of input from Gabriolans they’ve recommended that the Arts Council submit their proposal for any further painting of poles to the three elected representatives for approval, in order for this project to proceed.

    It’s my understanding that we are being asked to approve the installation of the art based on community input. We are not being asked to approve or disapprove the art itself. This is a good thing since I know I’m not qualified to judge the art.

    Municipalities routinely approve or disapprove the installation of public art. This is the first time B.C. Hydro has been asked to approve this sort of project in a unincorporated rural area, so they were unsure of what the public process should be. Since we aren’t a city and don’t have a city council, we’re being asked to do the job. We certainly didn’t ask for this responsibility.

  12. I love public art. So I’m in favour of big painted poles—I think things like this are fun and can be thought-provoking.

    At the same time, I am fussy about my visual environment. I don’t want to have to live with what I consider to be an eyesore next to my property.

    These positions may seem to be mutually exclusive, but I don’t think they are. I think there are solutions—they might take more work but might provide more benefits.

    In areas where a painted pole is proposed, get the artists to work with the people who live in the neighbourhood to decide what goes on a pole and what doesn’t. Consult to be sure people won’t be made upset by the proposed painting. This makes the process more challenging, but also opens possibilities for creative collaboration between artists and non-artists. If a neighbourhood buys in to a project because it’s involved in defining it, there’s less likely to be people upset, and less likely to be destruction of artwork.

    • All good points, skadhu. And maybe the painted poles will be a thing of beauty and a joy forever.

      I don’t like most of the public art I see in Canada; to me it is very often a tasteless blight upon the landscape, rather than an enhancement. Unless poles are going to blend in more than they do now (e.g. painted to look like tree bark, sword ferns or whatever) then I’m probably not going to be thrilled about the painted pole thing, regardless of how many artists consult, mentor, or whatever.

  13. yes skadhu I think thats the plan…its a good one. they have been discussing the approach and held a meeting the other night trying to get some input. there are some artists waiting to mentor the neighbourhood on what they would like to see and how to execute the vision.

  14. Wow, I can’t quite believe how much fuss is being made of some hydro poles on the ferry hill being painted by artists in our community. I thought Gabriola was known as “Isle of the Arts”? And isn’t this quirky type of public art part of what could make our community more attractive to tourists whom we need to keep our businesses in business? I would much rather see painted hydro poles outside my house than some of the abandoned vehicles & collected miscellany that now decorate part of our street.

  15. GG -you have made some good points but I think you miss the reason a lot of people are upset. Art is great I’m somewhat of an artist myself in several different mediums. Our point is the general public should have been part of the decision or at least asked how we felt as a whole on the project. This is OUR Island and not just the Art’s Council’s There should have been a community meeting were the council could present their idea and should have asked for the communities input and concerns about the project. Not everyone here are artist and are not living here because of the art we all pay taxes and are entitled to our input and opinions.

  16. GG, I think the issue for many people is whether it’s public or private land. When someone has an eyesore on their own property we may not like it, but unless it contravenes bylaws there’s rarely anything we can do but grouse about it. On the other hand, when it’s on public land that our taxes pay for we feel a level of ownership and are more likely to get upset if our views aren’t taken into consideration. I think this is magnified if the public land is next to where we live.

    Gabriolan, I think another issue is one you refer to—whether or not it blends in. I think the context plays a big part in this. To me, public art works best in an urban environment that clearly IS urban. It provides unexpected encounters in what is generally a pretty bland experience. It can work in natural spaces if they’re in an urban context. For example, I’ve seen lots of public art in Vancouver along English Bay, and I like some of it very much—although it’s park green space and the art is in some ways out of place, the context is so openly urban that the contrast between the natural beauty and the art doesn’t bother me and sometimes actually makes the piece more enjoyable.

    On the other hand, I don’t want extreme contrasts in really natural environments—there, to me, it would be jarring and intrusive. So in a Vancouver context, no, I don’t want to come along a trail in Stanley Park and find some weird metal thing looming over me. I’m there to experience nature and I don’t want that experience disrupted.

    Gabriola overall is much more natural than Vancouver, so I think public art here has to be handled with a lot of sensitivity. I think it could work well in places that are very public and (relatively) urban, like near the shopping malls. In more natural places (along the Tunnel, for example) I wouldn’t want to see something that stood out and said “I’m not natural!” in a loud voice.

    Which is not to say I don’t think there should be art in places like that—there are many bits of art in our forests that I love (houses in stumps come to mind as a good example). But things like that fit in with the environment, and you have to be paying attention or you won’t even notice them, and so when you do it’s kind of like finding a little treasure.

  17. I guess what it is, is when we lived in New Westminster these decisions were left up to the Arts Council, they were the ones with the expertise in this area so they did what they thought the community would like, with minimal public input.

    I am not an artist nor moved here for the art scene, however it is part of the island’s identity.

    I am going to bow out of this debate, hopefully gracefully, go back to my veggie patch & hope that however this issue is resolved that no one is too upset about it.

    • Thank you, GG, for sharing your thoughts about those poles. I like hearing your opinions and hope you will continue to voice them, whether or not others agree.

  18. Skadhu I wish you were sitting on the gabriola arts council as you would be an assent to them, and give voice to a whole other group of gabriolans who have been shouted down:)

    me Im good with quirky …in the city centre, no problem…but I agree with gabriolan too that some of the pole art should be better left to a “blend in with nature” look. so in neighbourhoods that are having poles painted perhaps trees and ferns with maybe the odd ladybug or exotic beetle for contrast would be perfect.

  19. Isle of the Artzis.

    You will be made to look at Artz!
    You will pay the price of non-support of the Artzis!
    Say goodbye to beauty! Every surface will be transformed into Artz!
    From now on, you will be force-fed Artz!

    There was once a regime that forced its ideas upon the people.
    At first, the people thought it was a good thing, and supported it.
    There was talk of “pride”, as if there had been none before.
    Then slogans, rallies, and officials began appearing everywhere.
    By then, it was too late to stop it.

    Such movements are born of inconsideration and intolerance.
    They start small, and play along. Then they form commitees and councils.
    Then they become consumed with self-importance and power.
    The leader becomes a fanatic who exerts complete control.

    Do we want armies of Artzists and Artz fanatics swarming our island?
    Or do we halt this thing before it can no longer be halted?
    Perhaps it’s time for a new name…
    ‘Island of Dreams’. ‘Island of Peace’. Maybe even ‘Gabriola Island’?

  20. Just want some facts to get out there:

    1/ this project was announced weeks ago, so if you are taken by surprise, you probably missed the info. No one was trying to take you by surprise. It was out there.

    2/ there are a limited number of poles to be painted – one per neighbourhood, if the neighbourhood agrees, and a few on ferry hill. Not every pole, not nearly enough to alter the visuals of the island.

    3/ the neighbourhood must approve the pole, and has a say in the design. That’s pretty democratic, don’t you think?

    4/ the professional artists will mentor the painting which may be done by folks in the neighbourhood as a community project. It isn’t a free-for-all.

    Now I have a few questions:

    What about eyesore properties – anyone got anything to say about piles of junk next door?

    What about the 30 some-odd signs we are greeted with on ferry hill? Anyone got anything to say about visual pollution there?

    Drive to the end of Chernoff and look at the moonscape that was a forest a few years ago – now it’s a gravel pit for acres and acres. Any complaints?

    How about all the broom on the island? And daphne?

    What about people who come here because they love the natural look of the island and then clear cut their property?

    OK – you don’t like or want public art. I do, lots of us do. So – do we talk about a public aesthetic on Gabriola that might see a few changes and developments, and possibly restrictions – or do we crush the artistic impulse and sit back as the island uglifies.

    • Penny Sidor —

      I think there are two points of contention.

      The first is that not everybody likes the pencil, or appreciates the idea of painted poles on the island.

      The second is that people don’t feel that they had a say in whether this program would go ahead or not. That very basic step seems to have been omitted, with organizers jumping right into this is how we’re going to do it. Sure we were told about the program, but we were told, not asked.

      I share your concerns about ugly things on Gabriola. I’d like to see more preservation of wilderness, less clearing of land, and so forth.

      Anyway, welcome. We’ve had a lot of anti-pole-painting comments, and it’s nice to see some people voicing other opinions, too.

  21. Throwing ugly at ugly doesn’t result in pretty.
    As you say, there’s a lot of ugliness around already.
    But tarting up nature doesn’t improve it.
    Treading carefully upon it does.

  22. As Skadhu thoughtfully expressed above, public art—i.e. art in public space, not on private property—is a complex thing, which needs to take into account the nature of that space and, outside of the urban environment, that space in nature.

    I have looked at public art in many places around the world, much of it dating back many centuries, much of it, frankly, not very good formally but with a kind of patina of cultural belonging, a fittingness to its environment and to the life of the people who live or have lived there. The best public art, that which we’re still admiring and thinking about hundreds or even thousands of years after it was made, is both formally excellent and manages the remarkable trick of expressing a community to itself while at the same time not offering self-satisfaction or comfort. I think of Verrocchio’s Colleoni in Venice: at once triumphalist and brutal, celebrating the republic’s wealth and prestige while daily reminding passing citizens of the violence done and power exerted in defence of that wealth and prestige. The centuries have not lessened its impact, even if accumulated pigeon shit has subverted its triumphal aspect.

    So, what does a Hydro pole painted to look like a giant yellow pencil make us think about? What does it express to us about us? There is a place in art, of course, for whimsy and for humour— even in public art—, but it is seldom sufficient in itself to bear the weight that art, especially in proximity to the wonders of nature, must seek to carry if it is not to sink into tourism marketing banalities. This is in no way a problem particular to Gabriola: the trend in urban public art goes the same way.

    It is not that I don’t want public art on Gabriola, but that I would want such art to express something about this place that only art could express. And despite the large number of people living on this island who identify as artists, I’ve seen remarkably little evidence of people pondering what that might mean. [Karen Curry is an exception, I expect, based mostly on an appreciation of her pre-Gabriola photographs and mezzotints from Ontario, Victoria and Haida Gwaii. I’d be happy to learn of others.]

    There is, in fact, what I think is an exemplary piece of official public art on Gabriola, although modest in scale and away from most peoples’ areas of traffic. This is the inscribed stone bench that Nancy Crozier carved in memory of Meagan Visser, which sits in that most disreputable corner of the island, the back end of Huxley Park. I don’t suppose many people, reading in the local papers about youth drug taking and drinking in the park, take the time to visit this work, or look beyond the litter of the nearby parking lot and skateboard area at the little pond and patch of grass that provide its miniature arcadian setting. The carving of the bench is eclectic, uneven and the whole seeming not yet fully formed, like the young life it commemorates. It is about a person in a place, and that relationship is one of the things that only art can express. There are a few other such works about the island, but most of them either on private land or unofficially placed, in secret, by people to whom they mean something.

  23. That’s a good place for public art. A take it or leave it proposition.
    Otherwise you end up with ‘The Thalidomide Mother’, scaring tourists to death, Trafalgar Square, along with the long-suffering ghost of Lord Horatio Nelson, until enough people slit their throats to convince the authorities to finally remove it.

    Public art belongs in places where you are able to go and see it, or not.
    It does not belong in places where you are unable to avoid it.

  24. Gisele R suggested some time ago that the main concern was lack of consultation. There’s a lot of talk about that.

    I would like to get some suggestions from the disgruntled as to how that consultation might take place. I didn’t think that painting a dozen hydro poles warranted a referendum (expensive). Survey Monkey + Paper surveys?

    Also want to say that I like the concept of public art, and I’m personally ok with putting the decisions about it in the hands of the artists. I don’t expect to love every piece, any more than I love the music of every busker, or the design of every building that I encounter.

    Perhaps we should set up some sort of ‘direct democracy’ system as in ancient Athens…

  25. This evening I asked hubby how he liked the big pencil on the hydro pole. “Big pencil on hydro pole? were is it” he said. I answered surprisingly,” Are you kidding you pass it every morning on your way to work!” “Oh” he exclaimed, ” Is that what it is.I love it! I just thought someone painted the pole yellow so it would be easier to see, you know a safety thing, I always thought it was a dangerous place for a pole now everyone will be able to really see it.” I roll my eyes and slowly shaking my head I reply. ” Well dear I’m sure the Artist will be glad to hear how happy you are that it’s yellow, never mind that it’s a big pencil just as long as everyone can see it.”
    There is no accounting for practicability and the logic of a man! :0)

  26. Do you support the painted poles project? Have your say here, with this online survey provided by the Gabriola Arts Council. There are only two questions, so it’ll just take a moment to tell the GAC what you think.

  27. Pole painting seems to me to be more of an urban concept, something a city dweller might expect to see.I don’t see it as appropriate for a rural setting. Why bring city graffiti to our country roads? For me, these are still a form of billboard, albeit cylindrical.

    I do not wish someone else’s idea of what is fine art in my sight everytime I walk down my road.

    By the way, there seem to be 2 prepared poles in the Pat Burns and Harrison area, why is that? That’s a bit over the top, I would say.

    If this is truly public art, then there should have been public involvement right from the inception of the idea. This would include public input , as in voting, on the appropriate designs.

    But I do not want these poles… soooo…

    How about banners? That way the artists and neighbourhoods could collaborate on something appropriate and appealing which is not permanent, fixed in place like an unmoving pole.

    Or, how about a truly environmental type of art, a la the famous British artist, Andy Goldsworthy, which incorporates nature into exquisite yet ephermeral site-specific “oeuvres”, creatively manipulated naturally found objects (trees, rocks, grasses, mosses, feathers, water) in installations all derived from the natural surroundings,complementing and blending and somehow honoring… artists could collaborate on these , in the meadows, fields, woods and shorelines, taking photos during the process, which would then be the focus of a grand show at Art works later in the year. This type of art could really bring attention to the wonderful creativity here on Gabriola, and would perhaps inspire other artists to take up this powerful , ingenious and respectful art which works with nature. After all, we have to do all we can to cherish and honour this poor planet of ours, one that we seem hellbent on destroying.

    So, there are alternatives much less intrusive than painted poles, that should make everyone happy.

  28. The Gabriola Arts Council is happy to discuss Hydro Poles with anyone and everyone! It’s been in the paper several times and has the support of BC Hydro, The Gabriola Recreation Society, Heritage Canada, BC Arts Council, Arts BC, BC Gaming and, from the amount of positive emails GAC’s received from islanders over the past month, a lot of Gabriolans. The pole painting plan has been in the works since last summer. The Gabriola Recreation Society heard a grant proposal for this project back in September of last year (for which they are granting GAC $1000) as did Heritage Canada and the BC Arts Council … it has been very much a part of our group’s profile for the past 8 months or so and we do, very much, believe in transparency! The Gabriola Arts Council holds open office hours every Wednesday between 10 AM and noon (we’d love to have more but we can’t afford it!). You can write to GAC at or call 250-247-7409. We have board meetings once a month and we have a big general meeting every year. GAC membership is only $10 which gives you a vote in the AGM, a bi-weekly e-newsletter and opportunities including running to be on the board. BC Hydro, along with Gabriola Recreation Society, Arts BC, BC Arts Council, Heritage Canada and BC Gaming all supported this program with funding or permission. Artbutus Lumber, Village Foods, Robert’s Place, The Gabriola Elementary School, Wild Rose Nursery, Gabriola Artworks, The Old Crow Cafe, Architrave, Woodfire Pizza, independent realtors from Coast Realty, the Roxy, Village Liquor Store and a host of volunteers have helped shaped the Festival under which the Pole Painting project is held. It is estimated that GAC’s tthree-day theatre festival pumps $50,000 of off-island dollars into our island economy as does the annual Thanksgiving Studio Tour (now in it’s 16th year!) so over a span of 6 days (3 for the Theatre Festival, 3 for the Studio Tour) artists on Gabriola draw $100,000 to this island (not bad for less than a week’s worth of traffic spread out over two weekends!). This money goes to local businesses, restuarants, accommodation providers, local services and helps keep our island vibrant! You could also talk to any one of our very active +/- 260 GAC members. Gabriola Island has one of the highest concentrations of artists in Canada and artists, musicians, writers, actors, dancers and their peers make up between 5-10% of the workforce of Gabriola according to the Canada Census bureau.

    Public Art

    “Local Colour” Pole Painting

    The Isle of the Arts Festival

    Underscoring the Gabriola Arts Council’s 2012 emphasis on Public Art, the Local Colour project links artists and island neighbourhoods in the creation of an artist-led, neighbourhood-directed public art installations resulting from neighbourhood discussions facilitated by an artist/artisan.

    Each participating neighbourhood will nominate one or more telephone poles to be “adopted” by an artist experienced in the public art process. Artist-leaders will be instructed to encourage neighbourhoods to explore the heritage and culture of each individual neighbourhood along with geographical and present-day influences. Each neighbourhood’s poles will have a distinct base colour reaching from the ground to 8’ with a simple, clear distinctive graphic series of stencilled images which will be painted over the base coat. The overall image is one of a cohesive “look” unique to each neighbourhood – i.e. a starfish motif over a blue base for one neighbourhood, ravens over a red base for another. In addition to a portion of a $4500 grant from Heritage Canada, a $1000 grant for this project from the Regional District of Nanaimo through our local Recreation Society, and a $300 grant from Arts BC, GAC is committed to providing basic supplies including safety vests, signage, paint brushes and a base primer paint for the poles. The neighbourhood residents will execute the actual painting of the poles under the guidance of their artist-leader, who will receive a $250 grant from GAC. The neighbourhood planning for this project will commence April 30th with execution of the “pole painting” planned for May 6th.

    The four main objectives of the Isle of the Arts Festival’s “Local Colour” project dovetail beautifully with the mandate of the Gabriola Arts Council.

    The Gabriola Arts Council’s Vision is to enable:

    • Inclusive, interwoven, creative opportunities for all Gabriolans.

    The Mission of the Council is to:

    • Facilitate greater public awareness of and participation in the arts.

    • Mentor artists and arts organizations to achieve excellence.

    • Broaden the base of public and private support for the arts.

    • Serve as the primary resource for information about the arts.

    • Encourage cooperation among arts organizations.

    • Stimulate economic vibrancy through promotion of Island arts.

    The Isle of the Arts Festival “Local Colour” project’s four main objectives are:

    • to encourage Gabriolans of all ages and economic backgrounds to experiment for their own creative growth

    • to encourage dialogue amongst island residents on how they can incorporate public art into their daily life

    • to increase employment amongst local artists and artisans within their artistic discipline

    • to grow the knowledge-base of the local community audience in order to increase their appetite for locally produced art and arts programming.

    The goal of the Local Colour project is to underscore the Isle of the Arts brand that Gabriola is renowned for both far and wide. The economic spin-off of such a project will put money into the pockets of both island artists and local businesses that rely on tourism while strengthening neighbourhood pride.

    The Council has established itself as an inclusive, highly successful, community-based organization. Since its founding in 1997 there has been a steady, fiscally-responsible, well-managed expansion of activity from the production of a single, seasonal event to the provision of a year-round series of programs, events and services including:

    • The Thanksgiving Studio Tour now in its 16th year

    • Gabriola Theatre Festival now in its 4th year

    Gabriola is a rapidly growing, but fairly homogeneous, rural community. We have a very high proportion of active professional artists, and substantial participation in the arts from non-professionals. The Council is a well-established, broadly-based arts organization that encourages enjoyment of, and participation in, the arts throughout the community. This encompasses:

    • Sponsoring, promoting and producing the work of local artists;

    • Providing leadership, assistance and a communication forum to artists;

    • Advocacy with respect to venues and other local arts issues; and

    • Fostering participation by the community at large as creators as well as consumers of art.

    There is an unlimited number of participants that can be accommodated in this project with no restrictions to age and abilities.

    An ad hoc version of this “pole painting” concept has already taken place in the Fernwood community of Victoria with resounding success without including the parameters that the Gabriola Arts Council intends to surround this project. Our vision is for a cohesive professional, yet welcoming and accessible, opportunity for community members to engage in the public art process while creating a visual tribute to Gabriola’s reputation as the Isle of the Arts. All the board members of the Arts Council live on Gabriola and are deeply committed to the success of this project. The board is fully committed to ensuring this project is overwhelmingly well-received within the community and is prepared to establish an annual fund to both expand on this project and for maintenance of the painted poles.


    Kathy Ramsey
    Gabriola Arts Council President
    Arts BC’s Community Arts Champion 2012

    • There are artists and business people on Gabriola whom I love, and so I wish them every success. Studio Tour makes them happy? Great; I’m happy for them. Local businesses employ local people and that’s all possible because of tourism? Ok, great. Happy, happy.

      But the idea that we must do this, and then that, and then yet another thing to Promote Gabriola and Attract More Tourists is not, in my opinion, wise. Using tourism = money as the justification for so many things falls a little flat.

      I think design elements like painted poles should be approved if residents want them, and rejected if residents don’t want them. Underscoring the Isle of the Arts brand is not a goal of mine.

  29. Bronka, that last idea about the environmental art is fantastic. I’d like to see those.

  30. Not being willing to describe myself as an artist, I enter the debate with a due sense of deference and humility. What I see are three basic types of BC Hydro pole on Gabriola.

    One type is the bleached barepole. Not particularly visually attractive, but full of symbolism. Just look at peoples’ heads on the next public occasion. The Snuneymuxw among others on Vancouver Island didn’t believe in painting their poles either. Their fading away over time was a part of life’s cycle.

    Another type is a washed-out green. It always makes me think of hydrous copper chloride. It definitely has an unbiological look, and another darker shade of green would be much nicer.

    And a third type is a handsome darkish brown, sometimes a bit patchy, but still showing off its living colour. Sort of reminds me of those ads for brunette hair colorant you see on TV with touches of coffee, chocolate, and molasses.

    Any chance of improving on these? Well, the green could definitely be improved, though it would have be done all the way from the base to the top of the pole. Lines of barepoles could perhaps do with a touch-up on a selected few with a dark stain. The natural ones — perfect as they are.

    I can’t imagine any urban-inspired GAC graffiti being worth a moment of consideration. Thank you, but no thanks.

  31. I would not usually get involved in any debate about art, public or otherwise, as my knowledge of this subject is limited primarily to knowing what I like and what I don’t like but as an almost Londoner I feel compelled to respond to Crow’s comment about the Alison Lapper statue that was displayed in Trafalgar Square. The negativity of the comment saddened me, and I doubt Crow actually saw the magnificent sculpture but rather is responding to mixed media coverage. I was lucky enough to see it, it was amazing, not ‘nice’ as Crow might disparage but challenging and utterly stunning. I expect it provoked many different reactions but I cannot imagine fright would be one of them and neither would I expect it, or poor old Admiral Lord Nelson on his 300ft column, provoke anyone to self harm.

    I, like many others, respect and admire Alison Lapper for her impressive challenge to the public perception of disability and her awesome achievement as a single parent to her son Parys born twelve years ago. The family became widely known to the UK public when Alison and Parys were one of the families featured in an ongoing documentary series ‘Child of our Time’ which is a longitudinal study of families with children born in year 2000.

    Crow and other readers of this blog may be interested in learning more about Alison Lapper and about the ongoing ‘fourth plinth’ project. In particular Gabriolans may be fascinated by the Gormley ‘installation’ of one person every hour for a number of months. Now perhaps that is a public art initiative Gabriola could follow as we could each have our hour on the Gabriola Plinth in just over a year!

  32. The village is our “urban” space. Have you noticed how the yellow pencil matches the yellow curbs at the Post Office? The painted poles should be fine in the Village triangle. Village business people will make sure that the art is of good taste and refreshed as needed. I prefer to keep painted poles off all rural neighbourhoods. Hopefully there will be at least one ruralista or two in all of them to put a lid on the spreading of this “urban’ idea all around the rural Island.

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