Brampton’s public arts budget lacking substance

Manfred, 2003 sculpture. Source: City of Brampton

During a recent City council meeting, it came to light that Brampton’s public arts budget is only $60,000, an anemic amount compared to other cities of its size.

Mississauga, though a few hundred thousand residents bigger than Brampton, budgeted $6 million in funds dedicated to public arts over three years (2014-2016).

According to City Councillor Grant Gibson (Wards 1 and 5), the city’s budget funding for the public arts is supported by grants and allocation of funds by the city through various departments.

This year the main focus for the public arts will be the Churchville 200th anniversary for which a commemorative sculpture has been set. Half of the overall budget, $30,000, has been set aside for the project.

The city also has a 150th public art project planned, funded by the federal government. Alderlea will receive a new sculpture in addition to its current one.

Save for a couple of projects, one being the Ghost Train at Mount Pleasant, and a graffiti project run by the city, almost all of the city’s current public art resides within Downtown Brampton.

But with such a dismal budget, and a perceived lack of importance placed on public art, there seems to be no room for growth at the current time.

Until recently, public arts was under the directive of the Public Arts Task Force, with was a collaboration between the city of Brampton and the Brampton Arts Council (BAC).

With the closure of the BAC, the city has approved the establishment of an Arts and Culture panel. The Panel is composed of volunteers that stem from different areas, including various art, culture, business and education communities and elected officials.

Michael Palleschi, City Councillor Wards 2 and 6, notes that the panel will address concerns related to the public arts in a final report that will soon be presented to the city. “The Panel is seeking the services of a professional advisory firm to undertake a research study on cities around the world; who have transformed themselves through arts and culture or achieved significant success in growing their local arts and culture sector,” says Palleschi.

This sounds promising and could bode well for Brampton’s arts and culture sector. The panel’s report is a few months off and it isn’t clear yet whether a strategy for dealing with the lack of funding and lack of diversity in the city’s public arts.

Toronto by contrast, through city policy commits one per cent of the cost of a capital project or private sector development to public art. Their ever-growing crop of projects dotting the cityscape is proof. They see public art as an extension of city building.

Public arts projects, big and small, have the ability to set the tone and identity of growing communities, something Brampton’s growing landscape could do with.

Councillor Elaine Moore (Ward 1-5) maintains that the city does indeed understand the importance of public art. “The Arts is a significant employer, and contributor to our economic health,” says Moore. “Whether it is arts infrastructure, or economic policy targeted to supporting the arts, our budget should include a provision for advancing the arts as a strategic priority.”

This remains to be seen. But with the new arts panel bringing a new collection of perspectives, and a new crop of staff leading at city hall, there’s certainly potential for change.

The Arts Panel’s much-anticipated report to council, coming in 2017, will paint a clearer picture of how the city can move forward to remedy the issue at hand.

Think the city’s public arts budget needs work? Let us know in the comments below.