P.E.I.’s investment in art bank ‘a bit feeble,’ artist says

The P.E.I. government’s new investment in its art bank is a good initiative, but won’t be enough to keep the best Island art in the province, says one P.E.I. artist.

The P.E.I. Art Bank was originally launched in the early 1980s and collected works into the 2000s, but has been dormant in recent years. The art is on display in provincial government buildings. The province announced earlier this week it would spend $20,000 on new works this year, and $10,000 a year for the next four years.

“Anything that supports the art is welcome, but it’s a bit feeble,” said Island artist Gerald Beaulieu.

“It could have used a more complete overhaul, and I think it needs a more robust budget so that it can really reflect the scope and breadth and depth of the artwork that’s being created on the Island … It’s more of an office-decorating budget than a real acquisition program for our best contemporary artwork.”

Budget too small

There is no space for electronic media or installations in the art bank, Beaulieu noted. Installations are a big focus of Beaulieu’s work, so he doesn’t see space for what he does in the art bank.

But the budget is perhaps the larger issue. A single, large important work could easily be valued at more than $10,000.

“It’s not going to buy a lot of work,” Beaulieu said.

“It causes artists to submit work of lesser value than their best stuff so they have a better chance of being acquired.”

And so the best work being created by Island artists is still likely to end up somewhere else, rather than staying on P.E.I., he said.

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