Thursday, January 05, 2012

Art for Awareness: Homeless Memorial Sculpture

A new piece of public art was unveiled in Edmonton in November. It is a sculpture that honours those in the city who live their lives without adequate housing. Located just north of City Hall on 99 Street, it was created by local sculptures Keith Turnbull and Ritchie Velthuis. I finally got a chance to go and photograph the sculpture this week.

The cost of the sculpture was $40,000 - a price tag that made some cringe. They questioned the use of public funds in this manner, expressing doubt that such a piece of art can actually help the homeless.

While it is true that the agencies and shelters who help the homeless (and those at risk) are often underfunded, a piece of public art such as this tribute has its place.

First of all, it raises awareness of the issue. It is a visually striking reminder to anyone who sees it, that there are those in this affluent city who live either without adequate shelter or who are on the margins and one step away from such a fate. As well, people with direct experience of homelessness took part in the creation of the sculpture. Tiles designed and made by these people are featured prominently - and, they were paid for their contributions.

A memorial for men and women who have lost their lives as a direct result of not having a home is usually held in January. However, according to one of the organizers, this year the date is yet to be determined. The hope is to have the memorial outside at the sculpture.

Public art has been viewed with some skepticism lately, due to the unveiling of the Talus Dome on Fox Drive, which cost $600,000, was made by an artist in L.A., and which most people can't seem to figure out. However, sometimes the price is justified. The homeless memorial sculpture has value that goes beyond money.

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