Whether it’s a gorgeous sculpture with an obvious meaning or a misunderstood mural that’s up for interpretation, public art is always a topic of conversation, an opportunity for selfies and a place where people gather and connect. In Calgary, the Public Art Program works to acquire and create amazing public art that positively impacts Calgary’s urban landscape and changes the way Calgarians see, think and experience the city around them. With art created by both local and international artists, there is certainly a lot to see throughout the entire city! If you’re looking to discover some of the city’s amazing art, here’s a great guide outlining some of the must-see art in Calgary.
Downtown Calgary has become a hub for public art and as such, it is a great place to start - or finish - your art exploration around Calgary. Here are some of the highlights of downtown Calgary’s 59 pieces of artwork.
Wonderland - Jaume Plensa
Possibly one of Calgary’s most recognizable pieces of art, this steel mesh sculpture in the shape of a girl’s head is located in front of the Bow Tower. It is one of the most appreciated pieces of art in downtown Calgary and with two dor-sized entrances that allow you to walk through the sculpture, it’s also one of the most interactive.
Outlaw - Richard Loffler
In honour of legendary Calgary Stampede bull, Outlaw, this bronze sculpture provides a great story and some local flare. Outlaw built a reputation as one of the toughest bulls to ever appear the Calgary Stampede. This bronze sculpture at Fifth Avenue Place is one of many Stampede related pieces of art in Calgary.
Brotherhood of Mankind - Mario Armengol
Originally displayed at the 1967 Montreal Expo, this sculpture, located at the corner of 6 Ave & 1 St SE, was a gift to Calgarians by Maxwell Cummings & Sons. The tall figures reaching out to one-another have become a beloved presence in downtown Calgary and one of the most notable pieces of art.
The north end of the city is very diverse. This diversity is also shown throughout the art that is displayed throughout. From a large blue oval to a unique globe-like sphere, here are some of north Calgary’s art highlights.
Travelling Light - Inges Idee
It may just look like a blue ring to many, however, it is so much more. This 17-meter high functional art sculpture brings to life the theme of movement while also framing its surrounding landscape. The large circular shape makes reference to one of the oldest symbols of transportation - the wheel! You can find this sculpture on 96 Avenue NE.
The Colour of Snow - Barbara Grygutis
Calgary’s LRT system is riddled with art at many of the stations across the city. One of the incredible pieces of art, The Colour of Snow, can be found at the Crowfoot LRT Station in NW Calgary. In the windows of the station, watercolour-like glass containing images of snowflakes draw the viewer’s attention to the beauty of uninterrupted nature in the middle of an environment created by humans.
Armillary Sundial - Nathan Smith
Located at the Calgary Zoo, this stunning sculpture and “teaching tool” was designed to explain the movement of the sun and the construction of time. Surrounded by benches to represent each of the 4 seasons, the sculpture encourages the viewer to think about the passage of time. This spherical art piece was a gift from the Calgary Horticultural Society in 2008.
In south Calgary, you’ll see amazing art that is designed to help us look back on the past and remember the history of our city and our nation. Here are some of the unique pieces of art in south Calgary.
World War I Memorial - Coeur-de-lion MacCarthy
Located in Central Memorial Park, the bronze World War I memorial soldier is a perpetual reminder of the lives lost in the First World War. The sculpture is a significant piece of our nation’s history that was donated to the City of Calgary in 1924.
Cracked Pot Foundations - Katie Ohe
A sculpture that came out of a ceramic pot being accidentally destroyed in a kiln, Cracked Pot Foundations was a sculpture of chance that has become a distinct element of Prince’s Island Park. The sculpture is one that can be interpreted many different ways depending on how people see it, it is the visual re-imagination of pieces of the broken pot being put back together to form figures.
Calgary’s Utility Boxes
As you explore the art throughout the city, you may notice all of the vibrantly painted utility boxes everywhere you look. The Utility Box Public Art Program was started in 2010 by the City of Calgary Roads as an abatement measure for graffiti that was often applied to these utility boxes. The project proved to be highly successful; allowing artists to express themselves on a canvas in their community.
Working with student artists, professional artists and community groups, the program allows for these street-level artworks to add vibrancy to our cityscape while creating a sense of place and identity for communities. You can learn more about the Utility Box Art Program here.
There is a lot of art to see in Calgary! Every quadrant of the city has something special that captivates the mind and makes you think. To discover more of the amazing public art throughout the city, or to learn more about your favourite art piece, take a look at the Calgary Public Art Map here. This great map shows you art from every quadrant of the city and where you can find it for yourself!