Artists and art lovers of Calgary, take out your paintbrushes and prepare those sculpting tools because the city wants your input on what should be shown on city streets.
The Public Arts Panel is looking for submissions by Feb. 22 to find new voting members for project selections this year.
“We’re trying to engage as many Calgarians as possible,” said Sarah Iley, manager of culture for the City of Calgary.
“This is the first time we are doing a call like this for people that would like to serve on a panel,” she said.
Public art in the city has taken many forms, from the 17-metre tall, blue Travelling Light piece located ion the 96th Avenue N.E. overpass just west of Deerfoot Trail, to the artwork at CTrain stations.
“The Roger That project (at the Tuscany CTrain station) came out of a location where three communities are split by the highway,” said Iley.
When the artist tried to get a sense of the area, they realized that Tuscany station served as a central point for these communities.
“Very specific to that place, and time,” said Iley. “They came up with the idea of something representing an early telegraph pole for communication.”
Thomas Phillips, a student at the University of Calgary, believes that public art serves a practical goal in the city.
“I use art mostly as landmarks around the city to help orient myself,” said Phillips. “Some I’ve stopped to browse.”
The current Public Arts Panel is guided by the revised Public Art Policy, which aims to increase local involvement with public art in Calgary.
“For artists, it is a tremendously rich experience in collaboration and in understanding how communities create a sense of identity,” said Iley
The guiding principles, aside from getting more local interest in the city’s public art, consist of having an open and transparent approval process, sustainability and financial responsibility in selecting artwork.
This new policy is also informed by the city’s Public Art Master Plan, where research was conducted to better form a plan in touch with residents’ desires for public art.
“I mean, I hated those painted cows as a kid,” said Phillips. “Now they’re sort of nostalgic in a strange way.”
A survey conducted by the city found that 87 per cent of those questioned believe that art is important to the city, and that eight in 10 said that it is an integral part of the city’s CTrain stations, pathways and other forms of infrastructure.
Phillips thinks that while he sees that many people probably ignore art on a daily basis going to and from work, most would miss the displays in Calgary if they suddenly disappeared altogether.
“Art scene in Calgary is pretty thriving,” said Iley. “We were named the culture capital of Canada in 2012.
“When we put a call out, we get a lot of interest from people.”
The Public Art Program in Calgary is currently funded through the capital budget costs, receiving one per cent of the first $50 million allocated to capital projects in the city.
“The policy that council endorsed says every time we have a project, whether it is a bridge or a fire hall (or some other piece of infrastructure), one per cent must go towards public art,” said Illey.
“With focus on building new infrastructure to help the economy in the city, that [also] means [funding] a lot of new public art projects as well.”
Some current projects the city is dealing with are the Mount Pleasant fire hall, continued utility box art works around the city and the Manhole Cover Design Project.
“The artist at the Mount Pleasant fire hall project was clearly very interested in just hearing out the community,” said Iley.
“They really got a sense of what it is that people love about where they live.”