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OPINION: Calgary's inner-city public art an impressive success story – LiveWire Calgary



Chalk Drawings by Jason Botkin covers a large portion of Calgary’s Attainable Homes buildings. CITY OF CALGARY

For a long time, Calgary’s City Center has been seen as a place devoid of charm and character. A sea of bland, tall buildings was a common description. 

That’s not actually the case.

For the past 25+ years, the downtown core has gradually become an outdoor art gallery with sculptures on many corners. That’s thanks to the City’s bonus density program that allowed developers to build bigger buildings in return for amenities like public art. 

Perhaps the best-known piece of public art from the bonus density program is Wonderland, which sits the entrance to the Bow building. It’s by Jaume Plensa one of the world’s best-known public artists.  Some of you may know this piece as “The Big White Head.”

Some major pieces have been gifted to the city – including the popular Famous Five Monument on Olympic Plaza and Family of Man, the 21-foot tall sculptures on the old Calgary Board of Education block. 

Today, there are 50+ sculptures and murals in the downtown core, including arguably the City’s most loved public artwork – Doug Driediger’s Giving Wings to the Dream on 7 Avenue SE at Centre Street.

This iconic Calgary mural location across from the Centre Street LRT is home to Doug Driediger’s Giving Wings to the Dream. PAUL VILLENA / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Not just in Calgary’s core

But it isn’t only Calgary’s downtown that’s an outdoor art gallery. Over the past three years, BUMP (Beltline Urban Mural Project) has installed 40+ huge murals on the sides of buildings scattered around the neighbourhood. Created by Calgary, Canadian and International artists, the subject matter ranges from fantasy to decorative.  You can hardly walk more than a few blocks without encountering a mural.

Not to be outdone, Downtown West has also initiated a mural program in partnership with the city that today has several huge murals on the sides of buildings.  One of the most inspiring murals is Chalk Drawing by Jason Botkin.

The image is of a young girl sitting while drawing on the side of the Attainable Homes building. (Attainable Homes is an organization that helps low income families buy a home. FYI: The child depicted in the mural is the daughter of one of the homeowner’s homes.)

“The murals in Downtown West have not only brightened our neighbourhood, but sparked some great conversations,” said Farnaz Sadeghpour, Downtown West Community Association president.

“The murals are community builders for us. I’m biased, but I think they often improve the buildings and create unique ways for people to identify locations when finding their way around.”

Key institutions also embracing public art

As well, Calgary Municipal Land Corporation has made public art a key component of its transformation of East Village into a funky place to “live, work and play.”  In addition to several murals along the Jack & Jean Leslie RiverWalk that change every few years, major permanent public art works include:

  • The SameWayBetter/Reader by Calgary artist Ron Moppett is a 34-meter long mural made up of 950,000 mosaic tiles.
  • Bloom by Canadian artist Michel de Broin consists of various types of streetlights that together form look a giant flower.
  • Promenade by British artist Julian Opie is a four-sided tower with 20 LED panels that display an animation of people walking.
  • Trio by American artist Christian Moeller is a three-piece sculpture at the front and back entrance to the new Central Library that looks like a drinking bird.
  • Device to Root Out Evil by American artist Dennis Oppenheim is an upside down church currently on a five-year loan.

Not to be outdone, Kensington Village has numerous murals on the sides of its buildings. Also, the alley on the east side of 10 Street NW is a colourful street art/graffiti gallery.  Sunnyside has a growing laneway art program on garage doors.  And don’t forget Chinatown’s public art that includes the Sien Lok Park sculptures.

Wander over to Stampede Park to discover several significant public artworks (murals and sculptures). By the Banks of the Bow sculpture features 15 horses and two cowboys – reputed to be one of the largest bronze sculptures in North America.

Back to downtown – where it all started

While the last 10 years has seen a flurry of new public art in the City Centre, the development of the outdoor art gallery in our City Centre began back in the 80s and 90s.

It started with the Uptown 17th Mural program along 17 Avenue SW. Then, the 4th Street Sculpture program in Mission and Calgary Downtown Association’s Benches as Art project and the sandstone sculptures in the planters along Barclay Mall (3Street SW).

Two new sculptures were recently installed at the entrance to the brand new Park Central (northwest corner of 4 Street and 12 Avenue SW) residential tower.

Both are Calgary artists – Alex Caldwell and Blake Senini. Downtown has a massive new mural celebrating Baron George Stephen the first President of Canadian Pacific Railway in the alley on the back of Stephen Avenue’s Hudson Block at Centre Street.

Last Word

You could easily spend a day wandering the streets and alleys of Calgary’s City Centre and not see all of the 100+ artworks on display.  

But you would have a lot of fun trying!

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Art and grieving: Painter Barbara Pratt honours mother Mary Pratt's life in new exhibit –



There was no cake waiting for Barbara Pratt on her 56th birthday, something that until that point had been a tradition shared between her and her mother each year to mark the annual celebration of life. 

The warmth and love was missing for the first time.

Renowned artist Mary Pratt — her mother — died at 83 in August 2018. Mary made a career of painting hyper-realistic everyday scenes — including of baking — that resonated across the country and sent her to the top of the Canadian art world. 

Today, Barbara Pratt’s newest gallery, starting Saturday at the Emma Butler Gallery in St. John’s, pays homage to her late mother. 

“I had an idea back in 2018 to paint a painting of the cake pans, that’s in this exhibition, and I wasn’t really thinking about it in a really significant kind of way,” Pratt told CBC Radio’s On The Go

“But after my mother died, in that same year, the image became more poignant for me and I started thinking about other possibilities for images. When my birthday came I realized there wouldn’t be any birthday cake from my mom that year, for the first time ever, really, and that hit me pretty hard and fuelled my creativity.”

Pratt picked up painting from her parents. She also picked up baking from her mother, something she says is taken seriously in her family — particularly with birthdays. 

This cake was designed by Maria Clarke of Petite Sweet in St. John’s. Pratt painted it as part of her latest collection. (Submitted by the Emma Butler Gallery)

“It struck me that baking, and baking birthday cakes in particular, is essentially an act of love that you do for somebody else,” said Pratt.

“I don’t take baking birthday cakes lightly. I’m not going to bake a birthday cake for just anybody.”

‘It’s just part of what we do’

Pratt said the idea to paint cakes was obvious to her after going through some old family slides, many of which featured cake.

She said everyone in the family was happy in those captured moments, but added cake itself plays a role in societal norms. 

“Cake in general has a larger picture in our culture. We have cake with many of our rituals and celebrations. Retirement, graduations, weddings, obviously, and even at funerals you bring baked goods,” Pratt said.

“It’s just part of what we do, and that’s the way my mom approached art. It’s the way I approach it as well. It’s about representing what you know.”

Barbara Pratt says painting cakes for her newest collection came to her after the realization that she would not be receiving another of her mother’s. (Submitted by the Emma Butler Gallery)

Pratt’s new works feature actual cakes designed by Maria Clarke of Petite Sweet in St. John’s and some of her own. 

Eighteen of her paintings will be hung on the walls of the gallery from Sept. 19 to Oct. 10, and the memory of her mother and the paying of her tribute goes one step further. 

Many of the paintings were used using Mary Pratt’s brushes, and even some of her own canvases that she never had the opportunity to use, said Barbara Pratt. 

“I feel lucky, in that I have sort have been with her during the whole duration of creating work for this show,” she said. 

“There were days were days when it was very emotional for me, but uplifting at the same time.… I don’t know that it helped, but I did feel honoured by the ability to use her brushes, and her paint, and well an awful lot more of her supplies as well.”

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador 

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Art exhibit captures memories of a changing landscape through COVID-19 pandemic –



We began lockdown toward the end of winter; still cold, we stayed inside. As spring opened up to possibilities, many of us took to the outdoors, walking our only contact with the broader community, awkward though those encounters might be, hailing neighbours at a careful distance.

Alliston, Ont., artist Gary Evans has been creating throughout the pandemic; some of his paintings are now being shown in an exhibition titled “Daylight” at the Paul Petro gallery in Toronto.

He, too, experienced the strangeness of the world and the way he was moving in it, differently. “Avoiding the few people out there and really relishing the freshness of the air and changing conditions of the spring, the walks and sights of the town and surrounding landscape became the subject of paintings,” he says. “I found myself trying to express the different textures of the landscape, capture a mood and witness change on a daily basis.”

A fence. A tree changing shape and the changing light.

“Intersections of architecture and nature always seem to catch my eye, and the painting ‘Alley’ is based on the view of a neighbour’s fence that runs beside a parking lot and an arena building. The small maples that peek over the fence mark the space or distance between the viewer and architecture.”

“Often I will start to paint an actual image, then slowly add marks and imaginative or abstract patterns and colours to complete the image in a more expressive and personal manner. I’m trying to create a dialogue between our inner world of feeling and subjective reality and the generic landscape we inhabit together.”

And now, we enter fall. The days shorter, the air crisper, the shadows longer. We’ll observe more carefully, wanting to etch moments in our mind. Some we’ll want to remember clearly, some framed, perhaps, with simply a sense of colours and lines and feelings. Memories to sustain us through a long winter indoors.

You can see the entire exhibition at the Paul Petro Contemporary Art gallery at

Deborah Dundas

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10-year-old Anishinaabe photographer makes art show debut at skatepark exhibition –



Ella Greyeyes came across photography by accident, when she filled in for a photographer who was supposed to take her dad’s headshot, but cancelled at the last minute.

The 10-year-old was instantly hooked. She started snapping more pictures: some of her mom, others of nature scenes. Her parents posted them on Instagram and Ella soon drew the attention of local artist Annie Beach, who suggested Ella get involved with Lavender Menace, a mentorship opportunity that will culminate in an art show at The Plaza skatepark at The Forks.

“I’m feeling really excited and just happy that I’m going to have my photos at The Forks,” Ella told CBC’s Weekend Morning Show host Nadia Kidwai on Sunday. “When people see my photos, I hope they feel joy in them.”

For Ella, photography was a new way to see the world around her.

“When I see something, I just like to frame it,” she said. “And I love to take pictures of nature. It just feels so good and relaxing.”

The photo Ella took of her dad, Alan Greyeyes, that kicked off her budding photography career. (Ella Greyeyes)

The show organized by Graffiti Art Programming gets its name from a term rooted in the American lesbian women’s movement for inclusion within feminism, said Chanelle Lajoie, a Métis artist who mentored Ella ahead of Sunday night’s opening reception. Lajoie said Lavender Menace was a chance to create space for Indigenous people and learn from each other.

“Working with Ella provided for me that intergenerational knowledge-sharing, because it was very much reciprocated on both ends,” Lajoie said. 

“Ella really enjoying taking photography of nature … seemed [to] really fit well with the project of providing natural elements to a predominantly concrete space, and so it was a really perfect fit.”

Ella — who is Anishinaabe from Peguis First Nation and lives in Winnipeg — said she learned so much about photography from Lajoie, from how to use the different settings on her camera to how to make a person comfortable in front of her lens.

“You have to be happy when you take them,” she said. “You have to take them with some joy, because then it will make the person, the model, feel really good and smile and not be grumpy in every photo.”

Ella took this photo of her mom, Destiny Seymour. (Ella Greyeyes)

Lajoie said the show at The Forks is meant to start a conversation about representation of Indigenous, LGBT and two-spirit people in a space so deeply rooted in Indigenous histories.

“That conversation will include us. It’ll bring up some uncomfortable realities. [But] our representation is also going to encourage inclusion and build community further,” she said. 

“So I hope anyone who is at the show, whether it’s tonight or in the future, if they’re having difficulty seeking out their queer selves or their Indigenous selves, that they see this and see themselves in us.”

The Lavender Menace group art exhibition launches Sunday at 5 p.m. The event will run until 7 p.m., though the art will stay until next year.

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