There’s a gaggle of City Hall artists who contribute to every little whim and whimsy of Toronto life. They call themselves the Toronto Arts Committee and engage in an unfettered but very necessary practice in which they pour enormous amounts of money and time into whitewashing our skyline.
As the mayor retires the plans for Pride this summer, yet another Parks and Forestry budget request has landed, the subject of $279,000 and an institutional choice to make none of it go straight to the greening of Queen’s Park.
Of this amount, $61,000 will go to artist Masha Brezina. No, she is not cleaning office windows. She is designing a street canopy on a new civic park on the corner of St. Clair Avenue and Sherbourne Street. As Masha told CTV Toronto when it interviewed her recently, “the greening of Queen’s Park would definitely have to involve wind.” City insiders swooned, anticipating that Queen’s Park would receive an $80,000 grant.
Brezina is to work with parks staff to create a canopy to blow around pedestrians as they stroll from the infirmary across Sherbourne to the Queens Park Garden across Queen.
She will then install the design in time for the spring reveille, but other than that is a mystery. Brezina’s work is posted on the website: www.freewhatevera.net where she offers her services for a variety of urban space and site-specific art installations.
The website offers painting and mixed media, chalk art, sculptures, installations and fences. Fine art, if you please.
Brezina has no experience as an urban planner or as a public art expert.
She provides little in the way of artistic value beyond her inexpensive contributions to human wallpaper. Her work is entirely superfluous to the city and to Queen’s Park. She provides less art than Woody Woodpecker.
But that’s the point.
The Masha Brezina use of taxpayer money appears to have come about because the city’s own streetscaping committee had failed to deliver the white canopy and got a free pass from city council’s amenity advocacy.
Brezina and others responsible for next year’s parks budget met at City Hall on Thursday to design improvements that included “new trees and plants, an arboretum, and creating more public gathering spaces where citizens can gather and share good times,” according to CTV.
But Brezina offers no evidence of how her design will transform or enhance such gathering spaces.
Her design is therefore utterly unnecessary. Her criteria for its installation is not public purposes, nor most important, aesthetics. She does not expect the public will appreciate it in any substantive way.
What she does expect is the sculptural value to be realized from an artificial breeze blowing through a public landscape in a snowstorm or a summer evening.
So much for the talents of the city’s premier artists.
It’s their day off.
Emma Teitel is President of City City Ltd.