Contemporary Art in Calgary

I haven’t heard much about the art scene in Calgary, but since I was in town. I might as well have a look at what’s in store for me. Calgary is one of the most progressive cities in Canada and is ranked as the 5th most livable cities in the world in 2016. The buzz spread around quickly and as buildings are built, and more people move in the city, it’s a sign for gallery owners to open their doors.

It didn’t took me long to discover art in the city. On my way to my hotel, I saw art in my neighborhood. There were several wall murals and artwork. East Village is one of the newer neighborhoods in Calgary, it attracts young professionals and young families who much prefer the quiet lifestyle and easy access to downtown.

The most noticeable art in this neighborhood is the wall mural created by Michelle Hoogveld entitled Corridor of Connection which was created as part of the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation’s Art in the Public Realm Program.  It connects Victoria Park and East Village. It took 7 weeks and 70 gallons of paint to complete the project. It runs 950-feet and runs along on each side of the underpass.

Lunch time, as I was about to get my lunch, I can’t help but notice the cow sculptures placed at one of the foot bridges to the mall. It was an initiative in 2000, a group of charity-minded individuals, led by artist and businesswoman Bonnie Laycock, thought Cowtown was lacking in cows, so the Udderly Art: Colourful Cows for Calgary project was born. It was inspired by the Cow Parade projects in Zurich and Chicago.

The initiative was volunteer driven, painted by local artists. The goal of the initiative was to feature the creativity and talent of the artists in Alberta, bring chuckles and smiles on the faces of Calgarians and visitors and to raise funds for various charities. Each cow is made of fiberglass, 54 inches from head to hoof, 84 inches long from nose to tail, and weighs 90 pounds. Individuals and companies, paid $5,000 for each cow and they get to choose their artist who will work on their bovines.

The finished cows were placed  everywhere in the city from the airport to the zoo.

August is the off-peak period for most museums since most of the people are out enjoying the outdoors. Some are open but the exhibits available are not as exciting compared to exhibits shown during the colder months.

Among the galleries that are open are Masters Gallery and Loch Gallery. Truck was closed the first time we went, but we came back for the bicycle cinema, which eventually turned to an indoor event because of the bad weather. We watched two indie movies; House and You are a Lesbian Vampire.

While most of the galleries are closed. My husband and I decided to do a mini art exhibit hunt. The series is called Wreck City. It’s a Calgary based collective that curates experimental art exhibitions in spaces that will be transformed into new spaces.

The aim of Wreck City is to create a fresh understanding about the present. A great thing about the initiative is it gives you an awakening of the current struggles and triumphs a growing city like Calgary has. It makes one realize that the issues are common no matter where you are in the world. Higher rents, old structures getting demolished to make way for the new, a rise in price for parking just to name a few.

Wreck City was set in different locations namely: House city, Old City, Radio City and Office city. House City only exhibits the exterior of the house. For 5 weeks, 23 artists used the space for talks, studio time, research, public events, meetings and residence. House city is where all the ideas were formed.

Old city was somewhere in Lower Mount Royal. In an old apartment block converted into a commercial space and residence, Old city’s basement was transformed into a dark room filled with light and kinetics.

Chris Foster & Layne Hinton made the Electric Kitchen. The materials used for the artwork are recycled kitchen utensils along with duct tape, electric wires, gas lines and air ducts. It transformed the space into an immersive show of lights moving across the space.

Also in Old city, Nate Macleod created An Intensely Fragile Construction. It takes its name from one of the texts (UNCIVILISATION, THE DARK MOUNTAIN MANIFESTO, submitted by Sara Tilley), building upon the form and ideas of The Hanging Picnic by considering the site of the recently demolished Deutsch Canadier Block (Eastern Block) — the former home of AVALANCHE! Institute of Contemporary Art (2012-2016) and most recently, a temporary parking lot for the Calgary Stampede.

Radio city is not far from old city. Saw the works of Laura Hudspith, Sarah Smalik, Sara Tilley, Jamie Tea, Amber PB and Jeff Meldrum.

Pink Champagne. The pink soap-cast figure in this fountain eroded into a mess of bubbles. Smaller sculptures at the fountain’s edge shows a disembodied arm and hands making comical gestures towards their companion legs, and hold the objects necessary for a whimsical and frivolous contemporary summer day.

Lifestyle landing by Amber PB and Jeff Meldrum was a well explained exhibit of a sales office for condo property. It tells the story that  despite hard times, Calgarians were still able to afford luxury condos. It bluntly shows that the lifestyle we choose is a dead give away for marketers to know exactly what to sell. The house you own, the car you drive, the pet you own, the lifestyle many wants has been designed and predicted long before it happens.

Modyrn Timez was inspired by Charlie Chaplin movies. There are real actors on performing the words projected on the screen. It’s a silent movie but it’s performed live which makes it twice the fun. Participants are also given the chance to interact with the Charlies, they’ve set up a space for visitors to write.

Office city is not far from my office in Downtown Calgary. The most interactive exhibit was the Pseudo Cafe. We met the artist Teresa Tam. It’s always a pleasure talking to artists and hearing what the concept was all about. We were welcomed into a cafe and was offered free tea. It was a long day of walking, the tea break was definitely a well deserved break.

Esker Foundation was a recommendation by one of the organizers of the Truck Bicycle drive in movie. It is a privately funded contemporary art gallery founded in 2012 by Jim and Susan Hill. It creates an opportunity for public dialogue and supports the production of astounding work, ideas and research.

Saw Anna Brown’s The Witching Hour and Anna Torma’s Book of Abandoned Details. I find Anna Torma’s art particularly fascinating because there was a time in my life that I was obsessed with embroidery. All the pieces took hours of work and all of the figures and details is unique.