Students in our Civic Innovation class have been exploring Calgary's creative and cultural economy its size, scope and impact. At the same time, each student was asked to research 5 exemplar cities anywhere in the world that have been successful in embedding the arts into the city's DNA. Below are some examples highlighted by our students.
Our group was tasked with uncovering the art for public viewing downtown.The area we chose to explore stretches from Centre Street to 6th street and 4th avenue to 9th avenue SW. As we toured, it came as no surprise to our group that public art is a vital component of Calgary’s downtown core.
We concluded that the best method of exploration would be to zigzag through the blocks so we would not miss any opportunity to encounter our cities art. The journey started on the corner of Centre Street and 4th avenue. As we wove through the streets, we discovered some amazing hidden gems and rediscovered some pieces we know and love. From historic representations to modern interactive sculptures, downtown has many different art pieces to explore. As the weather was in our favour, we all made sure to stop and appreciate some of our favourites which are featured in our Jane’s Walk top 10. Our group had a lovely time getting to know one and other as we walked and appreciated the great creative culture in Calgary
This is my favourite picture from our Jane’s walk as this view is mesmerizing with everything covered in snow. It was first time that I and my team members had the opportunity to do the Jane’s walk. We decided to go in the evening to click pictures of the art in our specified area. We went in the evening and it was cold. It was a great learning experience. Our designated area for the jane’s walk was from 3rd street -4th avenue to 9 street -4th avenue which included Eau Claire Plaza and Prince Island park. I have been in this area many times during summer, but this was the first time when I came here in winters. I found that bow river lagoon was used as a skating rink in winters. The park covered in snow looked like a white canvas waiting to be painted by imagination. The Christmas themed lights in the park added to its beauty. The view from the Jaipur Bridge in Prince’s Island park was breathtaking. Even though it was freezing at that time, but you just want to stay there and admire the view as time stood still. But we had to keep moving on because it was getting colder and we had a lot to cover. The delta gardens are a perfect place for evening strolls. The lights were reflecting from the snow giving the gardens a different texture which added to its beauty.
During the Jane’s walk I observed that we ignore the beauty of the places in plain sight. I have visited these places many times earlier but ignored so many beautiful sculptures right in front of me. It is also said that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. Some of the sculptures that we came across might came across as non - traditional art. One might have to turn on their artistic lens to recognize its beauty. All the times when I visited these places, I ignored so many beautiful structures because I did not see it through the perspective of an artist.
My team members and I had some great conversations about the buildings that we were passing by and why were those buildings were shaped the way they are today. I got to learn some interesting facts about architecture designs. Towards the end of our walking tour, our feet were freezing so we took shelter in a nearby convenience store and grabbed some coffee. Another lesson learned that day was that we should put enough layers while sightseeing in winters.
Overall, Jane’s walk was a fun opportunity where we learned about the sculptures and stories of the bridges that we came across. It was also an opportunity to know our fellow team members and listen to different perspectives about art.
Our Janes walk took us through the west end of the downtown Calgary core. From 8th Street to 4th Street, and, 4th Avenue to 10th Avenue SW. A sunny Saturday afternoon, the streets were relatively quiet, and our portion of downtown, dense with tall office buildings, provided a dynamic mix of shade and sun. Our search for art bought us a variety of work showcases — some inconspicuous, almost tucked away, and some of momental vitality and historical significance.
What was especially interesting about this area was the physical contrast between old and new. We found that, the artistic efforts included in our area were greatly influenced by the architectural landscape. As the larger majority of the corporate towers in Calgary’s urban core were established during Alberta’s oil boom, the period is evidently reflected in the heavy, prominent stature of the buildings. Sculpture and statues have been ornamentally mainly placed outside the main entryways of the corporate-giant offices. Harkening to a classical and historically-based predisposition of economic power, almost in attempt to enforce their societal positioning of influence and significance. A traditional representation of societal, hierarchical positioning, found in its original state in the historical landmarks of the area. The Courthouse Park and the McDougall Centre are the oldest buildings in the area. Preserved as historical landmarks, these stone buildings exhibit the influence of monumentality in structure that has been carried through multiple strands of architectural development.
Due to the areas relatively historical narrative and structural permanence, modern and contemporary artistic efforts are enmeshed, engaging with the constructed environment. Buildings, the train line and the historical sites have been renovated, updated or combined with new visions of representation, monument, art and space. The train line platforms were updated a few years ago, and the curvilinear aesthetic of the design extends from the more obvious efforts, like the overall design of the platform, to the more subtle, like the corresponding design of the street lights.
The renovated the entryways of corporate towers have restructure themselves from stone to glass, opening up the buildings vitality, showcasing modern methods and materials and allowing for innovation in artistic and aesthetic structure. Demonstrating the distinctiveness of the our modern era through the incorporation of art and structure.
An example of one of the more inconspicuous but extremely innovative efforts of art placement in this area can be found in the sidewalk electrical boxes. The City of Calgary implemented a showcasing program of art by making use of the countless empty spaces found on these vital systems of infrastructure support. You could walk right by it if you weren’t paying attention, but they are everywhere and the art displayed is respectively diverse. Some boxes display local art, some photography and some present historical photos and information about the area or buildings nearby. It is a credible and innovative realignment of art versus infrastructure, imagination versus organization, familiar versus unfamiliar.
The installation that stood out the most in the area was the Calgary Scroll, a digital installation beneath the 9th Avenue overpass on 8th Street SW. It is an installation of modern materials and lighting with a slim digitized screen running diagonally, over the cars driving on 8th Street and under the shadowy slate of the 9th Avenue bridge. This piece physically contrasts the traditional efforts of art and space in the area through the modern construction and materials, but the purpose of the piece means to embrace Calgary’s history. Old newspaper headlines, ads and classifieds glide across the digital screen over the busy underpass. Broadcasting bits and pieces of Calgary’s history into the downtown core, engaging the past with Calgary's current, every-day life.
One of the primary focuses of Calgary’s redevelopment efforts of the downtown, East Village sits on the confluence of the Bow and Elbow rivers. This natural meeting point has been important throughout the history of our province, whether that be in Indigenous culture or the founding of the City of Calgary. Originally founded to disrupt the whiskey trade in Southern Alberta, Fort Calgary was one of the earliest settled lands in the area. Falling victim to the industrialization of the city’s downtown midway through the 20th century, East Village became known as Calgary’s ‘skid row’ and was left untouched for years. However, efforts were made to revamp this vital part of the city’s history and in 2008 the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation acquired the rights to revive and redevelop the entire district which has to date received over $2.5 billion worth of investment.
Participating in our first Jane’s walk, either individually or collectively, was a great experience especially in an area that has been overlooked for so long. Having both grown up in Calgary, we found that some of the most interesting places our city has to offer often go unexplored as we never really act as ‘tourists’ in our own city. Venturing around East Village with a mindset of observing, learning, reflecting and sharing was a truly eye-opening experience for us both and brought with it a new level of appreciation for the arts in this are of Calgary.
Blending art with innovative design and technology, the area offers a wide variety of public spaces available for everyday use. From the kilometers of pathways to the community gardens, to the countless public art displays there is a blend of culture that would be tough to rival in any community downtown. After walking up and down every street in the community it is evident that no detail was overlooked in the design process which brings the area to another level.
With all the pathways available and the two rivers serving as its borders, this community is able to thrive in any season, offering quite a different feel depending on the time of year. Choosing perhaps the coldest day of the year to do our walk the pedestrian traffic was not at its usual level, offering only scattered groups of people walking dogs or jogging down the paths along the river. Having been there in the summer it could not be any more different; full of colour, people and activity. This provided an interesting contrast in our minds, the tranquil winter day vs the hustle and bustle of a day in mid-July.
Knowing the area had a rich history going in, we were both surprised at how much we were able to learn about some of these art installations and public places and how much they mean to the City of Calgary. With pieces of its industrial history being integrated into the new look of the area, we are able to see how far East Village has come and how much potential it has to grow in the future.
As we started our SINV 4401 class with Dr. Catherine Pearl, the course instructor, we were tasked with the Jane’s Art Walk Assignment. Through this assignment, Catherine had challenged each team of students to explore the art that the city of Calgary has on display. Each group was allocated a certain sector of the downtown core to explore and take pictures of the best art pieces that they found and reflect on.
Our group was given the east section of downtown where we explored along 1st Street SE, starting at 4th Ave SW to 9th Ave SW. Then we walked back up along Macleod Trail, through City Hall and towards the new Central Library where we found so many extraordinary pieces of artwork. For each of us, it was our first time doing a Jane’s Walk and we found it to be a very eye-opening adventure. Specifically, it was interesting to learn the history and meaning behind each piece of art. Without the Jane’s walk project, we would not have learned that Calgary is home to a significant number of public art. Through our entire walk we observed several pieces of art that none of us realized existed. It was exciting to find that even the smallest, unpopulated corners of downtown Calgary held some of the most interesting artwork.
It was very surprising to see how diverse the pieces of artwork were. In the small radius that our group covered, we were able to see artwork ranging from old to new; from the Centre Street Bridge Lion in front of City Hall to the Drinking Birds in front of the new Central Library. There was also diversity ranging from more traditional to contemporary art pieces such as the Women’s are Persons to the futuristic fins within Celebration Square. As a result, Jane’s Art Walk was an exciting and unique experience for the three of us. This assignment opened artistic and creative avenues that our group had never experience before.
Although the weather was unpleasant and the sky was dull during our walk we felt that the artwork brightened up our day. Viewing each unique piece made the city feel more lively despite the cold, gloomy day. Additionally, we observed that not many people were enjoying or paying attention to the art as they passed by. This was likely due to the cold weather as many people were in a hurry to get inside. This made the streetscape quiet and less vibrant. Perhaps if we do another Jane’s Art Walk during the Spring or Summer we would observe a different attitude towards art.
Our teams Jane’s Walk took place in the Princess Island Park, Eau Claire and Chinatown area. While all of us have previously visited these areas we had never participated in a Jane’s Walk. The experience made us hyper-aware of our surroundings. Instead of experiencing the downtown area in passing we gave ourselves the opportunity to experience the culture, history and art that surrounded us. We found that we had previously passed by numerous artwork, items of cultural significance and beautiful streetscape that we had never taken the time to properly appreciate. It was disappointing to recognize that we had been oblivious to our surroundings.
We were unaware of the significance of Calgary’s Lumber Mill as well as the rich cultural ties the Chinese community has on art and the culture in this area. The plaques we read about the Chinese communities ties to Calgary were nothing less than eye opening.
Our area of the city was absolutely filled with culture and art, and we were all pleasantly surprised to see historical landmarks in our area. Below is a photo of a café called “1886 Buffalo,” this building took us by awe as it is over 100 years old and has been repurposed to be a café. The fact that this building still stands amongst many modern buildings showcases our cities history.
The picture below features an art installation that leads to the entranceway of a residential building in the heart of Chinatown. It was exciting to see residential buildings embrace the area by installing pieces of art that align with the culture of the area.
We were overall very pleased with the experience, it taught us to slow down and to pay attention to our surroundings. It also taught us that we must be more inquisitive, by slowing down and taking the time to read the plaques we learnt so much about our cities history.
During my first time partaking in a Jane’s walk, I was pleasantly surprised by how rich the art culture was in the Downtown West Community. It seemed that every corner I turned there was a gorgeous mural that jumped out at me. I noticed that through the experience of doing the Jane’s Walk, my eyes had become peeled for art. It was as if I had slipped on some art-colored glasses that helped to focus my attention and filter out everything else. Even after leaving our Jane’s Walk area, in the car on the way home, I couldn’t stop noticing beauty around me. I felt joyful and childlike; completely struck by the unexpected beauties and culture our city has to offer.
Becoming attuned to the art around me made me feel connected to the community in a way that can only be described as spiritual. I felt like I was really a part of something; something that was important and really beautiful. Strengthening the presence of the arts culture in a city really can make the city and its residents happier. I smiled warmly at people I passed while walking down the streets and they smiled back at me, an especially unusual experience for someone who is usually quite timid of interacting with strangers.
I think that more people should participate in a Jane’s Walk because it really is a way to change your perspective of your city and see things in a new light. Without the experience of walking (rather than driving through) the area I wouldn’t have come across much of the art I was able to appreciate. At many times, I wouldn’t notice a mural or a sculpture until I was standing nearly right in front of it. I found that deliberately observing art trains you to derive warmth and feelings of togetherness from the community; it trains you to be mindful of the beauty that surrounds you and inspires joy.