Frozen River (top left) by artist Stephen Glassman, resides in the northeast at Rotary Park. Photos by Jesse Yardley / For CREB®Now

Building an artistic city

Public art is a big part of Calgary’s appeal and developers are getting in on the action

Some public art is iconic: think Wonderland, the giant child’s head that sits in front of the downtown Bow building or The Conversation, the statue of two businessmen talking on Stephen Avenue.

Others inspire or enchant: think the Women are Persons statues of the Famous Five in Olympic Plaza or Auspicious Find, the shape-changing 15,000-glass marble sculpture that sits in Prince’s Island Park.

With 1,200 different pieces, these “moments of delight” that surveyed Calgarians asked for in public art, are everywhere, says Sarah Iley, City of Calgary manager of arts and culture.

“Public art in Calgary enlivens our landscape, all year round” she said, while needing to be able to weather our climate. Iley says there will be significantly more art added throughout the city, over the next few years, with the continued investment in city infrastructure.

Public art, some of which includes donated art, is featured all across the city. It can be seen in dog parks, recreational centres, community parks, LRT stations, fire stations, underpasses and bridges, or in 62 public buildings.

Public art in Calgary enlivens our landscape, all year round.

Under a public art policy established by city council in 2004, most funding comes from City of Calgary capital budget projects that are over $1 million. One per cent of the first $50 million of total eligible costs, and half a per cent over $50 million – up to a maximum of $4 million – goes towards public art. For example, $30,000 of a $3 million capital project would go to public art.

When the public art policy was reviewed in 2009, public feedback suggested a desire for improved community consultation and increased use of local artists. That has led to more functional artwork, including local artists’ displays on utility boxes throughout Calgary neighbourhoods and the upcoming artistic bike racks at LRT stations.

Developers are also getting in on the action. Commercial and residential real estate projects can secure bonus density or special height allowances with public art contributions. At Encana’s The Bow, two public art sculptures – Wonderland and Alberta’s Dream – allowed the energy company to build Calgary’s tallest building.

It has now been surpassed in height by Brookfield Place, which also is providing public art in exchange for height allowances.

Lamb Development’s 6th and Tenth condo project will have The Land of Horses installation, by Chilean artist Francisco Gazitua, as part of the
$1 million it is spending on improvements to the Beltline site.

The Mark on Tenth by Qualex-Landmark’s renowned artist Douglas Coupland displays his interpretation of Calgary, Alberta in the 21st Century, which was included by the developer as an attraction for buyers.

In 2018, Anthem Properties’ Parkside on Waterfront will have a pathway installation, called Coyote and Moongate, that visitors can walk through on their way to Sien Lok Park.

Iley says other commercial projects, including Telus Sky and Manulife’s new tower, have leveraged art projects to gain density bonuses, which allow density beyond normal planning requirements. Other major city attractions like the Zoo, Telus Spark, National Music Centre and the New Central Library all have, or will have, public art, because of civic funding contributions.

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