Public art projects produced by students can help propel their careers

Some Langara art students have the opportunity to collaborate with city officials to have their works displayed by the Langara-49th Avenue Canada Line station


Reported by Maxim Fossey

Public art has a cost to taxpayers, but projects that feature the art of students in busy places like SkyTrain stations can be a huge opportunity, said a former Langara art student.

Alessia Macri, who is continuing her arts education at Emily Carr University of Art + Design, said it can be hard to get recognition as an unestablished artist.

Macri has a piece she collaborated on at Langara called As the Crow Flies that is installed on the side of the Langara–49th Avenue Canada Line station.

“Our names are out there for everyone to see,” Macri said. “Especially the fact that it’s next to the SkyTrain station and next to Cambie Street, so many people are seeing it. It strikes interest with them, then my name is on it, which is really great.”

As part of an annual collaboration with the City of Vancouver, Langara students receive a budget to build an art piece that will be displayed in public.

Not just a pretty penny

Public art is often the subject of controversy. In 2013, TransLink drew criticism when they revealed plans to spend more than $600,000 on art installations at three SkyTrain stations. Lois Jackson, the mayor of Delta at the time, asked why the money wasn’t spent on a bus.

But Monika Blichar, owner and producer of The Art World Expo, said that Vancouver’s public art installations should get more publicity. She believes these pieces can skyrocket an artist’s career because so many people have the potential to see them, especially in age of social media.

“People from all around the world are taking, tagging and sharing those photos, which is something that is so valuable for artists in their career,” Blichar said. “It also gives to you a status, a little bit of a credential, it puts you on the map that you’ve done something for a city.”

Langara fine arts student Tina Nguyen said she felt validated when her idea was selected as the next art piece to be installed at the Langara–49th Avenue Station.

Tina Nguyen shows the plans for her upcoming public art piece. Photo: Maxim Fossey
Tina Nguyen shows the plans for her upcoming public art piece. Photo: Maxim Fossey

“It’s a great stepping stone and great publicity. It’s awesome that I’m getting support from the school to do this piece,” she said.

Nguyen’s new piece will represent a 64-square-foot floor plan of an apartment with no apparent living space.

She said her biggest challenge was planning and budgeting for the project.

“I had to use all of these diagrams, pictograms for how things were going to get attached, and the kind of shapes and sizes of steel I needed,” she said.

The $1,000 budget may sound like a lot of money, Nguyen said, but it’s not when you consider that the piece, made entirely of steel, is suspended from the ground and needs to be weatherproof and safe for the people walking underneath it.

Nguyen said there’s an estimated 600 pairs of eyes that can see these pieces every day.

“I’ve made some really good connections because of this and that’s a great starting point. It’s a really good thing for my future,” Nguyen said.

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