An unexpected conflict has emerged regarding the proposed location of a public art donation to the City of Airdrie.
Last fall, Airdrie City council endorsed accepting the donation of a monument in honour of Philippine national hero Dr. Jose Rizal – a Filipino icon who played an integral role in the country’s fight for independence from Spain in the late 19th century. The bust of Rizal – a gift from the Philippine Consulate General of Calgary – was proposed for installation in Nose Creek Regional Park later this year.
On March 1, the item returned to City council, with three prospective sites in Nose Creek Regional Park for members to consider locating the statue.
The donors' preferred site, according to Community Developer Michael McCallister, is next to the Gwacheon Totems on the east side of the park, close to Main Street. While the area is within Nose Creek's flood fringe, he noted the Philippine Consulate of Calgary and members of the Filipino Association of Airdrie (FAA) preferred this spot for three reasons – its proximity to the Gwacheon Totems, its proximity to St. Paul’s Catholic Church, where many Filipinos attend Sunday services, and its proximity to a location in the park where FAA hosts an annual festival to mark the Philippines’ independence.
“[This site] meets all the criteria set out by the Filipino Association of Airdrie and it would create a strong focal point for cultural diversity in Airdrie,” McCallister said.
However, Airdrie Festival of Lights Society (AFOLS) President Rob Pirzek penned a letter to City council, which was read aloud at the March 1 meeting, asking if the City could find an alternative location for the statue of Rizal. Pirzek’s letter noted how the preferred site for the Rizal monument is the same spot where the society’s “Santa Takes Flight” display is installed during the annual lights festival in December.
According to the letter, AFOLS would struggle to relocate the display, due to its size and the park’s existing electrical infrastructure.
“The board of directors [of AFOLS] would like to make clear we are in full support of this donation to the City of Airdrie, as we truly see the benefits it could accomplish,” a portion of Pirzek’s letter stated.
“However, as a major stakeholder in Nose Creek Park, placement in this location would have serious ramifications to our operations. Our request at this time is to ask His Worship and members of council to please consider tabling this decision and allow AFOLS the opportunity to meet with all necessary parties to find a solution that works for everyone.”
After McCallister’s presentation, some councillors expressed disappointment at how late in the consultation process AFOLS was first informed of the proposed location – Pirzek’s letter stated board members were first notified in mid-February.
“My opinion on this donation is it would be an amazing enhancement for Nose Creek Park,” Coun. Candice Kolson said. “At the same token, I don’t want to alienate a large user group that does bring a lot of added value to Nose Creek Park as well.”
While City staff asked the Philippine Consulate of Calgary and FAA members if the bust of Rizal could be installed in another park, McCallister said they ultimately agreed Nose Creek Regional Park would be the most suitable location.
“At the end of the day, the Filipino Association of Airdrie came back to us and said, ‘Look, we did our physical site review, we went to Chinook Winds, we went to city hall, and we really, truly believe in our heart of hearts that Nose Creek Park is the best solution for the installation site for the Dr. Rizal statue,’” McCallister said.
After a lengthy discussion, council unanimously approved installing the Rizal statue in Nose Creek Regional Park, but tabled the decision on where to locate the monument until at least April 5, to allow for more consultation with user groups.