The recently refurbished Millennium Library Park is now home to one of Winnipeg’s priciest public art pieces.

Emptyful – an eleven metre tall stainless steel sculpture of water and fog – is the city’s latest public art instalment. The physically imposing structure didn’t come cheap – it cost the city $575,000 to build, making it the single most expensive public art project in the history of the Winnipeg Arts Council.

The hefty price tag has left at least one local activist wondering if the money was better spent elsewhere.

“Can we afford it right now? And with a lot of our roads crumbling and the mayor saying he doesn’t have the money to fix it – that’s the answer right there,” said Colin Craig of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Mayor Sam Katz said the project isn’t coming at the expense if fixing city roads. The cost comes out of a $900 million city operating budget.

“People can say you should spend money on roads,” said Katz. “There’s all sorts of places, there’s different pots of money. This pot of money was for public art.”

The mayor said Emptyful cost the city an entire year’s public arts budget, and there will be no further projects commissioned this year.

The Winnipeg Arts Council said they believe the piece is an important addition to Winnipeg’s cityscape.

“I don’t think it’s frivolous at all,” said Tricia Wasney of the Winnipeg Arts Council. “I think if you look at cities you love around the world, they all have great works of art in them. And we remember those cities because of the artwork.”

Emptyful is now available for public viewing at the Millennium Library.