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Artist Connie Watts says public art regulations stifle creativity

03/19/2015 09:00 EDT | Updated 05/19/2015 05:59 EDT
Artist Connie Watts will speak on Thursday in Richmond about the regulations around art commissioned for public places, saying too many rules can stifle the creative process.

In her talk at Richmond City Hall, Watts plans to draw on her experience from the 2010 Olympics — where she was the project manager for the Venues' Aboriginal Art Program.

The program installed more than 50 works in venues through Richmond, Vancouver and Whistler, and Watts said a lot of her job was working with the cities to make sure the art fit with their rules.

"A lot of it was around liabilities," she told On The Island's Gregor Craigie.

"If a crazy person decided to climb — and why people are climbing art I don't know — but if they decided to climb art and they broke something off the art piece and fell, the venue or the city was liable."

Watts understands the need for some rules, but said too many create barriers to new artists.

"I think it's a reflection of our society that is not putting a lot of weight around art and understanding where it really comes from and why it's so necessary in our culture," she said.

Supernatural thunderbirds must fly high

Watts said one way to work with the rules is to bring the artist into the project before any work has begun.

She has been commissioned for a number of public art pieces herself, including Hetux​, an installation for Vancouver International Airport she built in 2012.

The piece — which includes a large, supernatural thunderbird suspended from the ceiling — had to be a minimum height from the ground so people couldn't reach up to touch it.

Still, Watts said because she was in constant communication with the airport, she was able to create a piece she is proud of.

"I was very blessed … they came to me. I could start working on a concept, talking face-to-face with them, come up with these ideas and really I was the lead on that project," she said.

Watts' talk, Redefining Northwest Coast Art in Public Spaces will be held on Thursday, March 19 at 7 p.m. PT at the Richmond City Hall.

To hear the full interview with Connie Watts, click the audio labelled: Artist Connie Watts says too many rules stifle creativity.

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