Keeping the City Bright With Art

The latest art installation to hit Calgary seems to be just what the doctor ordered: A little sunshine. In an effort to draw people to the CORE, Downtown Calgary has commissioned a new piece of public art that will arrive just in time for the darkest part of the year. Caitlind Brown and Wayne Garrett, who have collaborated on several other pieces of artwork in the city, worked with architects, welders and engineers to assemble their latest installation. Brown and Garrett’s new artwork was inspired by solar flares and the sculpture is essentially a giant ball of light that will be suspended above Stephen Avenue to bathe the street in simulated rays of the sun. Solar Flares is set to be unveiled this week.

Solar Flares is one of many unique art projects that have popped up around Calgary in the last year. Whether building sculptures in abandoned wings of schoolyards or in the dead of winter, artists in this city are continually finding creative ways to showcase art that draws on local inspiration. In fall of 2012, there was Nuit Blanche, an evening festival that Calgary now celebrates with roughly 120 other cities around the world. The evening brought Olympic Plaza to life with performance art, playful sculptures and the standout conversation piece aptly titled ‘Cloud’ (another piece by Brown and Garrett), which was made up of over 6000 light bulbs. As people moved under the sculpture, they couldn’t help but pull on the dangling chords that were attached to each light bulb. With dozens of people pulling at chords in a simultaneous action, the whole cloud seemed to come alive and almost give spectators the impression that an electrical storm was brewing in the Plaza.

Nuit Blanche was followed by Wreck City, which happened this spring. Wreck City was a one-of-a-kind community art project that stretched the size of an entire city block in Sunnyside and involved 30+ local artists and musicians re-imagining a row of abandoned houses and garages in a temporary art space. Eleven were re-purposed into fox holes, deconstructed rooms, grand collages and interior playgrounds for the public to discover. The display was also the artists paying tribute to the neighbourhood before the block was destined for demolition and redevelopment into condominiums.

Finally, there was the Phantom Wing show that happened this fall in the abandoned wing of the King Edward School. Many of the artists from Wreck City joined forces yet again to transform the vacant classrooms and hallways into a labyrinth of suspended lockers, murals, altars to gods and kinetic sculpture made from found materials salvaged from the June flood. A variety of local bands played alongside installations as people explored every nook and cranny of the school wing. The exhibition even featured the new and totally unique concept of “Intercom Performance Art.”

There is no denying that Calgary’s art scene is something totally unto itself. We look forward to seeing what’s in store for city art projects in 2014.

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