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Photo of The Conversation by William Hodd McElcheran. // Photo by Mariah Wilson.

Five public art pieces to view in Calgary

By Tanya Yeomans, January 18 2021—

Public art can influence our experiences, inspire new ideas and provoke thoughtful discussion. Art installations may be destinations to visit, subtle alterations in our environments or can shape how we use and move through space.  

If you are looking for something new to explore in the city, look no further than this list of the five best art pieces in Calgary.  

The Conversation – William Hodd McElcheran

Stephen Avenue Mall, 1 St. S.W.

The Conversation is one of Calgary’s most iconic art pieces. The two larger-than-life bronze businessmen locked in a persuasive debate were crafted by the renowned Canadian sculptor William Hodd McElcheran in 1981. The Conversation is part of a larger businessman series with more examples found in other cities across Canada. The placement of the statues on the busy Stephen Avenue Mall makes it an easy piece to access and enjoy.

Cracked Pot FoundationsKatie Ohe

Prince’s Island Park, 698 Eau Claire Ave. S.W.

Regulars to the University of Calgary campus will be well familiar with Katie Ohe’s works. Ohe is the creator of the kinetic sculpture The Zipper found in the Science Theatres, spun by many student hands between classes and before exams. Ohe’s work has made an indelible imprint on the city as she has been active in the Calgary art scene since the 1950’s. In addition to her physical art contributions, Ohe has taught at the Alberta University of the Arts (then Alberta College of Art and Design) , Mount Royal University (then Mount Royal College) as well as at the University of Calgary. Cracked Pot Foundation is one of her abstract geometric stone sculptures from 1964 and can be found on Prince’s Island Park. Ohe’s inspiration for this piece was broken pottery shards in a kiln.

The Delta Garden + The City UnseenCaitlind r.c. Brown and Wayne Garret

West Eau Claire Park

Completed in 2018 and located just south of the Peace Bridge, The Delta Garden + The City Unseen is a multi-faceted art project built by Calgary artists Caitlind r.c. Brown and Wayne Garret. Comprised of a delta-shaped garden and walking pathways, the work shapes how people move and congregate in the area. The pathways are embedded with 12,000 brass survey markers, each stamped with phrases crowd-sourced from The Invisible City Survey, asking people two questions: “Where are you going?” and “Where do you want to be?” This participatory component allowed the piece to be co-created by the artists and the public. The piece is best enjoyed at multiple scales, as you stroll through the garden space, sit at one of the many benches and enjoy an up-close reading of the survey markers inscribed with sentiments of people that have passed through the space before you.

Dale Hodges ParkSans façon  with O2 Planning + Design, Source2Souce and AECOM

2123 52 Street N.W.

You can find Dale Hodges Park by walking along the north side of the Bow River in Northwest Calgary. As you enter the 40-hectare park, it may not immediately strike you as a constructed space. Completed in 2019, Dale Hodges Park used to be an industrial gravel pit that was reclaimed as a riparian habitat and public space. As you wander through the pathways and the wetlands, it becomes apparent that the landscape and the stormwater infrastructure have been constructed with function and form in mind. Long ribbons of marsh wind through the park and the perfectly circular storm water pond includes seating areas for reflective contemplation of the built versus the natural landscape. The park was named after Calgary Alderperson, Dale Hodges, in recognition of his lengthy public service and dedication to preserving green spaces in the city. More information can be found here.

Views and Collide, the Confederation Park Murals Project – AJA Louden and students

10 Street N.W. tunnel and 14 Street N.W. tunnel to Confederation Park

Colourful murals adorn the otherwise industrial pedestrian tunnels connecting Confederation Park underneath 14th and 10th streets. The 2017 piece was painted by Edmonton-based AJA Louden in collaboration with students through the Street Art Program for Youth. Start at 14th Street and before you enter the tunnel, read through the poem Collide by Calgary Metis poet Cobra Collins, which inspired the mural. Once through the tunnel you can walk around Confederation park while heading towards the 10th Street tunnel to enjoy the second mural, Views.

This list of art installations is a fraction of the public art that can be appreciated in Calgary.  If you are interested in discovering more, want to combine these into  a larger art walk or even enjoy some photos of art from the comfort of your home, you can find a map with descriptions and photographs of Calgary public art here

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