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Public Art Downtown

Home > Calgary > Free | Art | Architecture
by Karen Grikitis (subscribe)
I am a former journalist and editor, currently writing fiction for adults and children. Visit my website at www.karengrikitis.wordpress.com.
Published October 5th 2015
A collection that's set to impress
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The Peace Bridge, Calgary
Calgary's award-winning public art secured it a place in the New York Times top 20 places to visit in 2014 and it is easy to see why. More than 50 original art pieces adorn the downtown area and 100 or more utility boxes in the city have become canvases for art works, giving this oil town a distinctly artistic flavour.

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'Bow Passage Overlook', Calgary
One of the most iconic works of art is the Peace Bridge spanning the River Bow connecting Sunnyside to Downtown. Opened in 2012 to pedestrian and cycle traffic, the bridge was designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. Its striking red helical steel and glass design won it plaudits from architectural and design communities as well as locals, 6,000 of whom cross it every day.

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'Wonderland', Calgary
Another outstanding recent addition to Calgary's portfolio of art works is 'Wonderland' by Spanish artist, Jaume Plensa. Located in the plaza outside the Bow Building along Centre Street, this giant, 12m high white wire mesh sculpture of a young girl's head, completed in 2013, is a wonderful symbol of the hopes and dreams of young Albertans.

Equally notable is 'Bow Passage Overlook' on the south side of the River Bow near Pearce Estate Park. Designed by Lorna Jordan, a Seattle-based environmental artist, and completed in 2014, the artwork comprises a series of terraces with dark stone walk-throughs and seating areas providing views over the river, and dark slabs of stone cascading down the terraces to stunning effect.

Some of my favourite public art pieces are to be found at the very heart of Calgary's commercial and cultural centre. These include 'Conversation' by William McElcheran, a bronze of two tubby men in long coats and trilby hats wheeling and dealing along Stephen Avenue, and 'Women are Persons!' in Olympic Plaza, a bronze by Barbara Paterson, portraying Alberta's 'Famous Five' women discussing over tea how they will fight for Canadian women to be legally declared 'persons'.

Other public art pieces only really come to life at night, such as 'Chinook Arc' in Barb Scott Park. Created by Joe O'Connell and Blessing Hancock, this curved, three-dimensional, interactive sculpture emits a soft, internal glow in different colours. At Kerby and City Hall C-Train stops 'Luminous Crossings' created by Cliff Garten Studios, comprise stainless steel towers and canopies on to which spectral LED light is projected, the colours changing whenever a train arrives or departs.

There are too many wonderful examples of public art in Calgary to talk about each one individually here. If you would like to see them all, there is a downloadable Downtown Art Guide and a more up-to-date online map available.

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Why? Iconic contemporary public art works
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