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Former West Van mayor brokers public art deal with Jim Pattison
West Vancouver lawyer and the district’s one-time mayor Mark Sager has brokered a deal with billboard magnate Jim Pattison that would see some bus shelter ads in the municipality replaced with local art.
In May the District of West Vancouver announced a 20-year deal with Pattison Outdoor that would see the advertising company build and maintain 30 new bus shelters along the Marine Drive corridor in exchange for advertising space from the DWV. As well, a percentage of ad revenues would wind up in the city’s coffers. The approximate value of the agreement to the district was $2 million.
The arrangement sparked outrage from some community residents who felt the advertisements — which popped up when the new bus shelters were installed this summer — were obtrusive and did not reflect West Vancouver’s small-town values.
Sager echoed those sentiments at his birthday celebration turned local arts fundraiser at the Kay Meek Centre last Saturday night.
“I know things this year that I didn’t know last year,” he told the crowd of mostly family and friends. “I know that Gold Seal tuna cans are already drained.”
Sager continued to rattle off a partial list of what currently graces West Van bus shelters: an American country music artist, a grocery store chain that doesn’t exist in West Van and an assortment of hair products. “So I’m driving along and I’m looking at [these bus shelters] and I’m thinking this is an opportunity,” said Sager. “I thought if we could just take those same spots and we could put young, new artists’ work out there we could expose the next Picasso or Rembrandt or somebody.”
Sager then explained the genesis of Curbside: Bringing Art to the Streets. The name was crafted by a young graphic designer that Sager met at a local CrossFit session.
German high school exchange student Danny Wainryb then shot a YouTube video for Sager’s campaign, showcasing existing bus shelter ads being morphed into canvases of art.
Sager’s niece Erica Zacharias pulled together Saturday evening’s fundraiser which featured performances from Sager’s daughter Mikayla, an opera singer studying at the Manhattan School of Music, and his cousin Chris Wilson, half of the award-winning, theatrical comedy duo Peter ‘n Chris.
“I’m blessed in my family with really creative people, unfortunately I’m not one of them,” said Sager, grinning broadly.
In lieu of birthday gifts Sager asked his guests to chuck a ‘dollar’ into the donation envelopes that were circulated around the room.
“…and if we go around the community and I get everybody to do that I can afford to take from my dear friend Jimmy [Pattison] that space and replace the ads with art,” he said.
Sager told The Outlook of his connection to Pattison: his wife’s best friend is one of Pattison’s best friends.
“And he put me on to the president of his company Pattison Outdoor and they were really supportive of the idea — and I’m really excited,” said Sager.
While he would not discuss the financial specifics of their arrangement, Sager did say, “[Pattison Outdoor] has offered an incredibly good deal as long as I raise enough money.”
Pattison Outdoor declined to comment but did supply The Outlook with current advertising rates for West Van bus shelters. A minimum one-month contract starts at $1,700 per ad.
Curbside will make its pilot run during the 2012 Harmony Arts Festival held every summer in West Vancouver. Sager said it’s the perfect time to launch because the whole focus behind Harmony Arts is to showcase local artists to the community.
“The more support we get — and if it starts at the Harmony Arts Festival — maybe the community will support it so much that this will be a permanent art installation in our community,” said Sager.
Jim Carter, past chairman of the West Vancouver Historical Society, applauded Sager for setting a precedent when it comes to outdoor advertising in the community.
“I think the bus shelters are important but I would much rather see them reflecting the community art, people like Ross Penhall and Gordon Smith and so on,” said Carter. “There are some huge things to overcome like who is going to pay for it.”
West Vancouver councillor Craig Cameron was on hand Saturday to lend his support to Sager. His wife Cori Creed, an acclaimed artist known for her landscape paintings, is donating some of her pieces to the Curbside project.
He also weighed in on the previous council’s decision to approve the advertising contract with Pattison Outdoor.
“I don’t want to come across as criticizing the previous council,” said Cameron. “[Council] wanted to have the bus shelters paid for and they wanted to have some revenue stream for the district.”
Calling the bus shelter ads “visually polluting,” Cameron said it would be a decision he would try to avoid.
“My basic principal is that [West Vancouver] should limit commercial advertising to the extent possible,” said Cameron.
For more information on Curbside, visit the Mark Sager Foundation for the Arts webpage at marksager.com.