BLUE is my favourite colour and I appreciate innovation in all the arts for it motivates the artist within me. And I can even appreciate some graffiti as art. But when I heard we were getting an international artist in Squamish, I expected something truly unique. I was excited and waiting to be inspired but I must say I’m utterly disappointed at the Blue Tree Project.
The Blue Tree project would cost the taxpayers $15,000, but have we really examined the trees and the message they will be sending?
In Port Moody, the blue trees outlived their welcome and seem to have subverted their own message of reforestation. The blue colour sprayed on the trees there was supposed to last for a few months, but the trees remained blue for over a year. Even though the claim is the blue paint is bio-degradable, the
debacle in Port Moody makes me curious about the paint itself. To ‘what if it doesn’t come off’, I would like to add a few more questions: Is it really safe for our life-giving trees? Can someone guarantee the paint won’t infiltrate our soil and pollute it?
The artist painting these trees, Konstantin Dimopoulos, probably feels his art will raise awareness about deforestation, but the bitter irony is that this project may just itself destroy the trees we so love and appreciate in the West Coast.
Trees are an art in itself. If the district wanted a public display of art, they could have asked an artist to install a sculpture along the Highway, perhaps along an unsightly area along the Highway or an empty natural space that needs enhancing. To inspire and provoke thought, we don’t need to alter the natural landscape.
I have served on the Squamish Arts Council before and I know that creating a public art policy is extremely important for it brings to bear an expert artistic view on decisions we make as a municipality. I congratulate the district in working towards such a policy that would allow for a proper process and expert opinion before such decisions are made. And yet, I can’t help but wonder about the arbitrary nature of decisions that were made by those who may not have any background or expertise in public art. If the district had a proper policy on art, we may not have been having this debate for there would have been no approval.
I also wonder what the tourists will think of this art. Without extensive explanations, will they understand the Blue Trees as art or will they see it as train tagging, or worse, vandalism? Without a clear message, the blue trees may even put off tourists with environmental concerns. And has the district measured the tourism impact of previous Biennale installations? And I would really like to know how much Vancouver Biennial, the district and the artists have given back to reforestation efforts around the world?