After 40 Years, A Perfect Score!




West Vancouver Recreation Centre

I’ve just received my 170th consecutive job application rejection. Over the past 40 years, I’ve submitted to 170 municipal open call public art competitions and I’ve been rejected from all of them. Every. Single. One. I’ve never won a municipal open call public art competition. I’m including a few dozen sculpture symposium applications in my 170 count, as they, too result in a public artwork. From Victoria, BC to St. John. NF, from Alaska to Guatemala and a few in Europe and the Middle East – it is abundantly clear that public art committees do not want a Binkley.

Not the perfect score one wishes for.

I wrote a four part blog on the Fallacy of Public Art in 2012 and vowed to stop entering municipal open call public art competitions at that time. But since then, I’ve won several private and corporate open call public art competitions, so I thought these in my pedigree would be of merit for municipal open calls. Wrong. It appears nothing has changed since 2012.

This last rejection was for the District of West Vancouver’s Cultural Services Department that is looking for a public artwork for the exterior of the West Vancouver Recreation Centre. I’ve done some work for the District over the past few years – reworking some marble blocks in John Lawson Park and repairing a jade fountain (coincidentally, a winning design by a landscape architect, not an artist and a competition I was rejected from) – so I thought perhaps cultivating a working relationship with Cultural Services would give merit to my application. Again, wrong.

Let’s review what I have that would be of benefit to a public art project:

I have 40 years experience proposing, executing and delivering literally hundreds of sculpture commissions. I have 40 years experience successfully managing projects with budgets ranging from a few hundred dollars, to 100 million dollars, dealing with multiple stake holders that include clients, architects, landscape designers, gallery owners, art consultants, building contractors, lawyers and insurance agents. I am certainly a professional artist, as I make and sell art for a living. I’m not an architect, landscape designer, lawyer, waiter, taxi driver or kinesiologist who dabbles in art on the weekends. I have a portfolio of over 10,000 completed and sold artworks. Some of these are public artworks that I have completed through a private open call competition, a closed call competition or a direct selection. I work in the strongest and most durable material known to Man.

But this is of no consequence to government run open call public art competition juries.

Let’s review what I do not have:

I do not have a post-secondary diploma of any kind. Not in architecture, or landscape design, or law, or physics, or teaching or gallery curation. With a few exceptions, these and many others are the types of professions that are not only accepted as entrants into municipal public art competitions, but who are awarded projects. I have never been to an art school, and therefore not graduated from one. I’ve never worked in a man-made medium for my sculptures.

Area where proposed artwork will go

I’ve reviewed the competitions I’ve been rejected from, and noticed a theme in regards to the winning entrants. 1) With a few exceptions, none are professional artists – even though EVERY competition called for professional artists to enter. 2) In the few exceptions where an actual artist was selected, it was one who has a diploma of some sort from an art school. 3) Most ‘art’ solutions are executed in man made materials – metal, glass, plastic, etc. Few are created in natural materials, even though stone is the most durable of mediums.

Adding insult to injury is that of the public art pieces I do have in North Vancouver, Vancouver and White Rock, BC, none are recognized in that particular municipality’s public art roster.

The municipal public art racket is a closed “Boys Club”, and I just do not have the qualifications needed to join the club. I stand by my convictions criticizing public art programs as being corrupt, immoral and unethical. Read my evergreen posts Pt. 1, Pt. 2, Pt. 3 & Pt. 4 on the Fallacy of Public Art.

So, in keeping with the new decade of 2020, honouring my 40 years in business, and opening a new studio/gallery, this was the last municipal open call public art competition I will enter. I’m not going to waste any more time with these bogus circuses.

This time, I will definitely turn over a new leaf.

Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

19 Responses to “After 40 Years, A Perfect Score!”

  1. Bob Saint

    Your art is amazing and professional Mike. All I can say is “fuck em” they don’t know what they’re missing

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  2. Totally agree. Like you I have NEVER been awarded a municipal public art commission even though I have applied for more than I remember and occasionally try again. I have no degree from the establishment, years of experience and commitment, 1,ooo,s of sculptures, I work in stone, and my 6 public commissions came from private, direct selection or people’s choice awards. Alas, the system is broken!

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    • Michael Binkley

      Thanks for chiming in, Daniel. My public art successes were realized through private or corporate selections, as I wrote, but I’ve also had rejections there. One was for a competition that you won, and while it stung for me, I accepted it, as I was beaten by a colleague whom I respect and admire. These opportunities are on a level playing field – unlike the municipal open calls. Cheers.

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  3. Michael, I had no idea you experienced this! It’s utterly blowing my mind. The municipalities of the North Shore SHOULD BE SO LUCKY to even have the opportunity to exhibit your exquisite, original works of art. I’m not surprised about their bogus criteria with regard to their B-Comm/Diploma/degree crap. It’s the same in their hiring practice for staff. All to literally no avail. Peeling back the lid on any of these operations, besides the obvious recent corruption investigations, well, you’d be better off to distance yourself. We the taxpayers, however, the residents of these regions, will miss out on having that sense of pride for authentic artist participation. It’s a real sham…shame I mean. I mean shame.

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    • Michael Binkley

      Thanks, Stephanie. Coming from the executive assistant to former West Vancouver Mayor Pamela Goldsmith Jones, you have a unique perspective. Your comments are a salve.

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  4. Hi Michael,
    I remember way back when I heard this from you, maybe it was after #50 or #100 rejections. Then I remember the QE2 spa sculptures, and I felt you had broken through that glass ceiling. Well, nothing can stop you other than stopping yourself. Keep a crack open for the right call, and I’m sure when you get it, you will begin a new chapter in your life. With you new studio and gallery space, invite in the architects, landscape designers, city planners, and host them, wine and dine them, step outside the normal Call for Entries, which in most cases makes it legal for them to select whomever they want. You are a great inspiration for all of us sculptors and patrons. All my best wishes.

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    • Michael Binkley

      Thanks for your comments, Brian. The Queen Mary 2 sculptures, ironically were the result of a corporate competition by Cunard that I wasn’t even aware of until they announced me as the one to do the work – this after a year of what I assumed was consulting/collaborating. So that was not a government competition. As to your idea – the architects and landscape designers work for the developers, who are victims in this mess. Read Part 2 of my Fallacy of Public Art. I’ve tried to woo the A+D crowd, but they are hamstrung in the developer sector with the mandatory 40% budget penalty that goes directly to the municipality, in the event of a direct commission. This negates the incentive for them to hire me and another reason I take issue that my (we artist’s) fundamental right to free enterprise is being robbed. I will, however, woo the A+D crowd for the private sector – all the high end homes in Whistler and Squamish, for example. Stay tuned….

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  5. Michael, we share a lot in terms of our acceptance here. When Harold Rosenberg in 1972 wrote: “After 1972 anyone could be an artist, except, perhaps, painters and sculptors.” he was beuing prophetic of the dry, academic trends which still dominate here in Canada, though mostly forgotten elsewhere. The universities have ruined any artist’s chances in Canada if you don’t comply. You don’t get chosen because you ARE a superb sculptor. These days the critical theory gang who control everything want us to be social scientists or journalists. Purely aesthetically based, or works from the individual’s poetic imagination are not on the bill. All my supprt and recognition comes from Europe. C’est la guerre.

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    • Michael Binkley

      Gregg, Thanks for your comments and compliments – greatly appreciated. I agree – just look at Bryan Adams. It took Europe loving him before Canada perked up and took notice. But seriously, I do have to thank my many patrons and supporters I have here in this country who do love and appreciate my work. Without them, I’d not be where I am today. Its just frustrating that municipal levels have eluded me.

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  6. Michael, this is unbelievable! We agree with your opinions and feel ashamed for the conditions public art entry recejeted your applications over 40 years! There is no doubt that you are an internationally acclaimed and professional artist. Be proud of your fantastic art and the many happy art lovers and customers you have. You don’t need public art- we need you for your inspiring composition of the fine sculpture. With great appreciation for everything you create! Yours Beatrice & Stefan Schreiber

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    • Michael Binkley

      Dear Beatrice, Thank you so much for your compliments – much appreciated. Yes, I AM thankful to all of you patrons and friends who HAVE supported me and recognized me over the past 4 decades. Cheers.

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  7. Michael, you are a master and so many of us know it. I have a much smaller stack of Council rejections with comments like “can’t possibly write this score” even though I’d proven I can. Just keep making beautiful Art – forget about the idiots – it’s in your bones and soul man!

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    • Michael Binkley

      Ed, Thank you so much for sharing and your compliments. Yes, onward and upward!

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  8. Diane Craven

    Michael I’m so sorry that you have been turned doe repeatedly over the years. However I believe it’s their loss, not yours. Stick to your guns this time. Those that love and enjoy your work will continue to do so. You are an incredible artist and a wonderful teacher.

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