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Penetanguishene Main Street art project gets green light for 2022

‘A little bit of a happy thing to do’ narrowly passes approval by a Penetanguishene council wary of budget considerations, pandemic and moral justifications
Artist Camille Myles stands next to her work "Land of the White Rolling Sands" in 2020. The next art project for Penetanguishene's Main Street is anticipated to begin searching for local artists in February. Staff photo.

Local artists will want to have their materials at the ready.

In a narrow vote passed by the committee of the whole recently, the 2022 Main Street Art Project theme of “Living the Dream in Penetanguishene” was given the go-ahead to look for submissions from local artists.

To be installed at 122 Main Street later this year, the public artwork will be selected through an ad hoc committee created in 2019 through the Main Street Revitalization Grant. The first piece, “Land of the White Rolling Sands” by Camille Myles, was unveiled in February 2020 near the intersection of Main Street and Robert Street.

Planning and community development director Andrea Betty explained to council that money allocated from a previous budget’s streetscaping reserve would be allocated into the art project if approved.

“It would be located on Poyntz Street in front of the Shoppers Drug Mart,” said Betty. “There’s the patio stoned area and then a space further back that’s landscaped with a tree; we’d be looking in that general area.”

Betty added that a call for art would be put out to the public upon which community artists would send in proposals for the adhoc committee to consider before bringing to council for final approval. 

Council was divided with the report.

Coun. Dan LaRose stated, “With everything that’s going on in town right now that’s gone on for the past 16, 18, and 20 months – when I look forward in our agenda to where we’re short approximately $25,000 for our insurance – I’m wondering if this is the right time to be doing a project that isn’t a must; it’s more of a want, not a need.”

The comment was echoed by Coun. Michel Mayotte who added that even if the artwork were to be installed, attendance could be mitigated by potential pandemic stay-at-home orders.

Coun. Jill St. Amant admitted being torn having recognized the efforts of the adhoc committee while also respecting LaRose and Mayotte’s budget concerns, and asked if the project could be postponed for a short time; Betty confirmed that council’s will was staff’s direction.

Deputy Mayor Anita Dubeau affirmed that the money was in the budget. “I think it’s a little bit of a happy thing to do, and I recognize that COVID has created a lot of situations and things that make us not happy about having to stay in.”
Mayor Doug Leroux announced his support for the project, reminding council that $310,800 received from the 2022 Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF) grant could cover both the Main Street art project as well as the insurance increase under its guidelines.

“You know, when is there ever a right time for many things?” he offered.

“I know for a fact that this committee has worked very hard and has been very diligent on this whole issue,” Leroux stated. “I don’t see why we would bump this off and put it off at a later date.”

The vote for the project was narrowly approved, allowing staff to prepare for the call for public art proposals as its next step with a formal announcement anticipated to be released in early February.

The Main Street Art Project Phase 2 report can be located on the agenda page of the Town of Penetanguishene website.

Archives of council meetings are located on the Town of Penetanguishene YouTube channel.

Derek Howard

About the Author: Derek Howard

Derek Howard covers Midland and Penetanguishene area civic issues under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada.
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