Shop local for public art

Jared Milne
3 min readMar 5, 2024


(Image of the totem pole in St. Albert Lions Park, Musée Héritage Museum, CA MHM 2014.02.44–193.2014.02.124)

Money is tight for both people and governments across Canada, and St. Albert is no exception.

St. Albert’s budget debates for the last few years have focused on which projects the city should repair, maintain and replace, and which ones it should postpone to future years. City council has wrestled with how much it should increase our property taxes. Several councillors were elected partly because their platforms emphasized financial responsibility.

It’s a far cry from some 15 years ago when some residents were up in arms about how much the city was increasing property taxes and what council was spending public money on. One particular sore point was the city’s spending on public art, which residents like the members of the St. Albert Taxpayers Association considered a waste. Other residents thought the art enriched the community and its culture.

There might be a way to satisfy both sides, one that allows for the city to continue with public art while saving a lot of money. As a bonus, it could also contribute to what I call the ‘Four Indigenous Rs’ of rights, restoration, restitution and reconciliation.

If you’ve lived in St. Albert long enough, you might remember the totem pole that used to be in Lions Park. It was beautiful to look at and people remember it fondly, but it didn’t exactly reflect the cultures of the Cree and Metis nations that traditionally lived in St. Albert. Thinking about it, I got the idea that new public art should reflect the Indigenous culture and heritage of the St. Albert area. That would provide an excellent excuse to “buy local” and ensure that local artists, particularly Indigenous ones, are prioritized in the city’s acquisitions. Local Indigenous artists can obviously reflect their local history in a way that artists from New York or London simply can’t.

This approach might get support from across the political spectrum. A few years ago, I attended a presentation that Metis Elder Celina Loyer gave at the Musée Héritage Museum about St. Albert’s Indigenous heritage. Talking to her afterwards, I suggested that a new piece of local Indigenous art could go in Lions Park where the old totem pole was. She thought it was a terrific idea, and further suggested that it could double as playground equipment for kids who went to the park.

More recently, I made the same point to St. Albert Taxpayers Association co-founder Linda Hennigar, citing the possibility of saving money by ‘buying local’. Like Elder Celina, she thought it was a great idea. Ms. Hennigar thought public art should also focus more on the creations of local high school students.

A lot of the backlash against public art comes either from people who complain about the cost of it or from people who don’t think it really reflects the local community. The approach I’m suggesting could solve both problems. We save money on things like shipping costs by buying from local artists, who are the people best equipped to reflect our heritage.

It’d be the best of both worlds.

Originally published at on March 5, 2024.



Jared Milne

Passionately devoted to Canadian unity. Fascinated by Canadian politics and history. Striving to understand the mysteries of Canada. Publishes every few weeks.