City council votes down concept for a new north end welcome sign

Welcome art not welcome

Great piece of work - wrong location.

That was the general sentiment among the majority of city council Monday, as they said thanks, but no thanks to a new "Welcome to Kelowna" sign at the north entrance to the city.

The previous sign, at the intersection of Highway 97 and Old Vernon Road was taken down two years ago as part of the province's widening of the highway.

The sign, created by Ontario artist Ted Fullerton, included the word "Kelowna" in four foot tall letters as well as 10  seven-foot tall figures depicting people at various heights and depths.

It would have been installed on the west side of the highway prior to the entrance to the airport.

In a 6-3 vote, council generally believed a piece of public art should not be part of a welcoming sign.

"I like the sign...but, my first thought is this does not say Kelowna to me," said Coun. Mohini Singh.

"This does not say wow."

Coun. Loyal Wooldridge struggled with the placement of the sign, wondering why it would be erected north of YLW when so many tourists travel through the airport.

He was also disappointed there was no obvious representation of the Syilx Nation from a reconciliation point of view.

"I think a welcome sign has to say what the city represents," added Coun. Maxine DeHart. "In some of it I do understand it and in others I don't."

Coun. Gail Given, who says she questioned the sign when it first came to a Monday morning council meeting earlier this year, but admits it has grown on her.

"Do you need a welcome sign at your entrance, I don't know," she said.

"But does adding public art to our entrance create a unique statement about the City of Kelowna? You bet it does.

"If you Google unique city signs, I can tell you none of them are very unique. This is public art, and it will evoke a response."

With the issue going down to defeat, Given suggested it would be a beautiful piece for City Park, calling it a great selfie option.

Grabbing onto that theme, Mayor Colin Basran, who along with councillors Given and Donn voted for the sign, said it is indicative of where Kelowna is going as a city.

"It's inclusionary, it's diverse, and indicative of a city that's moving away from its agricultural and tourism roots," said Basran.

"You pass by an airport and a university on your way into town, which I think is indicative of that. I think the sign is saying that, we are a city of the future, that's what we're building."

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