Encouraging public art in Alberta

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Growing up on movies like Stuart Little and Finding Nemo I’ve always had a soft spot for the underdog. There’s something about seeing the little guy make it that gives us hope. It’s been argued time and time again that art is the tangible form of hope. Thomas Merton, a poet and social activist, once said, “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”

While I work in Airdrie, Calgary is home and we eat up public art. Maybe you’ve heard of the Peace Bridge, the big blue ring, and the Bowfort Towers. All three public art installations, received immense amounts of backlash. The Peace Bridge was said to be designed in bad taste. People were furious over the blue ring’s price tag of $470,000 and choosing an outsourced artist. The Bowfort Towers are the newest art scandal to hit the press and people are just as angry.

This spring a new initiative called Experiments in Public Art was started. The five-month project was a collaboration between Albertan artists and the City of Calgary. Five emerging artists were given the chance to be mentored by three top international artists to help further develop their public art ideas. Once the projects had been developed the public was invited to view the work and vote on which they’d like to see in the streets.

It’s programs like this that can be life changing for a student in art school, or a recent struggling graduate. We need to see more interaction with the public in this regard. There is amazing talent within our communities that needs to be seen. By encouraging people to become involved, a sense of pride is cultivated within the city for the beautiful installation and appreciation for the artist.

There’s a reason we as Canadians have our own award shows that highlight Canadian talent. Our country, and especially our province, is a work of inspiration and the art in our streets needs to reflect that.

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