Lead artist Cristina Delago has been creating mosaics for more than 20 years. A native of Italy, she grew up in a family of sculptors and woodcarvers, so it follows that she would choose to make her living as an artist. She has worked with several architectural firms over the course of her career, creating handmade tiles and architectural features for residential and public spaces. Her most notable work can be found at the corner of Bathurst Street and Lawrence Avenue.
Delago is also a dedicated teacher, instructing others in tile making, mosaics, and sculptural ceramics at the Royal Ontario Museum, Avenue Arts School, and various public schools. She has also been a mentor with Art for Children and Youth program for the last five years. Given her community involvement, it’s not surprising she would choose to become involved in the Coxwell Station project.
I’ve seen some criticism of this project. As a shock to no one there are those who question the use of public money on something so seemingly arbitrary. Understandable, we are in the middle of an economic crunch. True, spending money on public art may seem frivolous, but let’s look at the spin-offs. There is an improved sense of community among residents, engagement and empowerment among the youth of the neighbourhood, a sense of pride. These are not things you can put a price on. As for economics, you’ve got increased foot traffic in the area, which translates to dollars for local businesses. Also, there are the side projects that come with an installation like this. The wall and walkway were repaired in preparation for installation. Additional lighting and the installation of a convex mirror to monitor the area have lead to improved public safety. These all have value, but not necessarily as a line item in an accountant’s ledger.
I’m not saying that public art funding should go un-critiqued. What I’m saying is that its contribution cannot be measured in cost savings or direct financial terms. The effects of such projects are so diverse that they aren’t quantifiable in dollar value. It’s time for politicians to broaden their view of this type of human capital, beyond the terms of the financial.
Agnes Macphail is quoted at the bottom of this installation: “We meet all life’s greatest tests alone.” The title for this article comes from another of her famous quotes: “Never apologize. Never explain. Just get the thing done, and let them howl.”