FAQs: Artist-in-Residence in the Planning and Land Use Division of the City of Winnipeg

An on-site information session with WAC and City Staff took place on Wednesday, April 2, 2014 at City of Winnipeg Planning, Property and Development offices (15 - 30 Fort Street). Sean Madden, Community Climate Change Coordinator for the City of Winnipeg, and Tricia Wasney, Manager of Public Art for the Winnipeg Arts Council, gave an overview of the call to artists and took questions. The following is a summary of the Q & As.

What exactly are you referring to when you say “climate”?

Global climate change and Winnipeg’s impact on it, as well as how the City as an entity can reduce its own footprint. The focus of the project is mitigation and adaptation – reducing impact through reducing greenhouse gases. There is a possibility for looking at what Winnipeg and southern Manitoba will see in the future. We currently have a commitment at the Council level to reduce greenhouse gases.

How is the larger planning of the City involved? Specifically wondering about the ripple effect of an expanding city.

Our ability to impact realistically is limited given public and political climate. It’s still an issue we want to address. There will be some limitations, but we still want to look at climate change as related to urban growth. 

What will the layers of engagement be? Critique? Creation? Inspiration?

The challenges we’re facing include public awareness, public understanding of the science, how the City can impact behaviour, jurisdiction of City versus Province.

There was a 1998 Council motion which adopted interim targets for reducing impact community-wide. We adopted two targets and jointed a program called Partners for Climate Protection. Now, more than 80% of Canada is covered by areas which have agreed to take part in this program.

We have adopted corporate and community-wide targets. We have direct control over production of greenhouse gases through city buildings, fleets, waste systems. We’re making progress on addressing these things through a climate change action plan, a green fleet plan adopted 3-4 years ago, and a green buildings strategy for City-owned buildings.

Further commitments were made after achieving our targets in 2008, but community targets have not yet been addressed. Many other cities have addressed community targets, reducing the larger scope of emissions through community effect (food production and consumption, etc). The corporate effect is only 1% or less. We have a lot to learn from other cities.

We have brought in a consultant to see energy and emissions currently being used, where we stand, and where we are headed. They will deal with a community development and sustainability strategy: road and transit development projects, forecasting impacts for the next 20-30 years, and trying to put give context to targets. We want to get a sense of the most likely options for best impact of reducing emissions. This will be the technical foundation for debate of where to head as a city, and for adopting an implementation plan to adopt community climate change. We are seeking input from business communities, local environment organizations, and the City’s community populations. This public engagement strategy will occur during the period of the Artist in Residence program.

What are the objectives of the program?

1. To come up with more creative and effective ways to communicate with the public, get better feedback and move forward.

2. To promote awareness, understanding of the science, and communicate how we expect to be impacted by climate change.

We want to develop these objectives with the help of the creative mind of an artist. Outside of these main goals, the possibilities are very open. How we achieve these objectives is also very open. We want to use an artist’s skills to make the process more interesting, informative and meaningful for the citizens of Winnipeg.

What kind of input do you expect an artist to give to planning rather than policy, which seems more applicable (ie. creation of new suburbs)? Where does the artist come in?

We are not looking for planning recommendations, but to enhance the delivery of the engagement process and in conveying communications. We have never done an open house regarding impacts of climate change. Our intention is to improve communication tools and the understanding of the relationship between the commitments we make and climate change.

Would you expect the artist’s work to be in line with your ideas?

This has to be seen as a collaboration. The project is about having the artist’s point of view regarding this process. Obviously, there will be conflict as it is a contentious issue. What the City of Winnipeg does might fly in the face of what climate scientists say, and we are trying to bring these worlds together.

The residency will take place in two parts:

1. The artist will work with the City Planning group in a collaborative fashion to devise a strategy for how   to move forward

2. The artist will prepare a proposal which will be approved by the City of Winnipeg and the Winnipeg Arts Council, and then execute the project

It is a collaborative process.

Who would the artist be working with? Can the artist bring in experts?

You would be working with the Winnipeg Arts Council, as well as directly with Sean Madden, Community Climate Change Coordinator for the City of Winnipeg, an internal project team, and a broader group of City staff. It has not yet been defined how we will be communicating with stakeholders and the wider community. We hope to effectively do that and to address deeper questions with them.


Until the parameters are defined, the resources will remain abstract. Climate change plans and processes have been developed in a lot of cities, and can be looked to for possibilities of what will come. The level of engagement will be subject to political decision and scrutiny. Part of the process is done by facilitation and consultation, part by the artist. We intend to integrate these as much as possible. The artist will be able to contribute to process.

What kind of support will there be to help the artist navigate bureaucratic process?

You will be working directly with City staff, who will quickly answer any questions about what will and will not work, address any challenges, etc. 

Is it best to keep our proposals flexible?

We are not looking for proposals at this stage. We do not want you to have any preconceptions about what the work will become because it is a collaboration and the proposal will be developed with the group. We are asking only for written expressions of interest at this stage, all of the details of which can be found within the Calls-to-Artists section of the Winnipeg Arts Council’s website. Once the expressions of interest have been submitted, there will be a jury process, with the jury made up of people from the City of Winnipeg, artists (more than 50% of the jury), and people involved in climate change activity.

Will you accept proposals from duos and teams?

Yes. We would not want a huge group, but a team would be great. There is an expectation of independence here. We would expect one person from the group to act as leader.

Who is your audience?

The City-wide plan and its implications affect everyone. We need the participation of all groups, communities and businesses. Our audience is the 700,000 people living in the city of Winnipeg. The project will need support from City Council, and some key stakeholders, such as the Province of Manitoba, will have more of a say.

Has the site been chosen?

There is no physical presence for this residency. Whatever it ends up becoming (physical entity, workshops, events, etc) is unknown. It is a part of the responsibility of the artist to come up with ideas. The site is the City of Winnipeg.

The focus will be on the process. We hope we might enhance the process in ways we never conceived of, and reach out to audiences we don’t usually hear from. City planning can learn from community engagement that the arts have already been involved in for a long time. Artists bring a way of thinking and working that is completely different from what the City does.

This is a great opportunity to get involved in a way that is not usually possible. This is not just community planning. You will be engaged in the development of planning and process.

What is the expectation for being in the office?

That is to be determined. You may be given office space, and there would be flexibility and choice for how often and in what ways you use it. This isn’t a residency where we expect that the artist will be on display while they are working. It is more a case of the artist working with the daily work of the Planning Department.

How much do you anticipate open house consultation for communication?

It could be a small part or the main focus. It is yet to be decided. We are engaging expertise to determine that process. We hope the artist will have an impact as to how we do it.

Will the City collaborate with the Universities?

There is potential for that. There are already connections with the Faculty of Architecture. There is interest from many faculties at the Universities. It will come down to resources and planning.

What forms of artwork will you find acceptable?

We have limited the call to visual and media artists. We are not necessarily expecting a physical thing at the end. The beauty of this project is in its flexibility as it gives the artist a huge playing field. They will be involved right at the beginning, and will be a part of the whole.

If you have any more questions about this project and the application process, please contact Tricia Wasney,  Manager – Public Art, Winnipeg Arts Council, by telephone, 204-943-7668 or by email, [email protected]