Another mysterious piece of public art

Derek-Besant-Into-Night-Detail-20-Jan-2014 (1024x683)

I am sure this has never happened to anyone else.  You walk past something 1000 times or more over the course of many years.  You never notice that something has been there all that time, then for whatever reason you notice it and realize how oblivious you have been all that time.

Yup!!!  That was me yesterday.

I mentioned my find to a colleague that I saw at a function last night.  I described them.  I even mentioned the artist’s name.  She indicated that she should be aware of them.  She drew a blank as well.  So I informed her that she should check my blog in the next few days for more info.

So here is the public service announcement.

I am assuming that the two of us are not alone.  We look at public art.  We look for it too.  If we have not paid attention to them, chances are it is not even on the radar screen for others.

Public art is a curious thing.  Sometimes it is bright, flashy and you can’t help notice it.  Sometimes it is not.  Sometimes it is ephemeral.  This one is the one that is easy to miss.

The artist.  Derek Besant.

The City of Calgary has a 1% for art program.  Just like many other municipalities, provincial and state governments, and the federal government as well.  I have written about it before.  I am sure I will write about the 1% for art program again.

Briefly, the program designates that capital project budgets over $1-million should allocate 1% of the capital budget toward public art.  This public art is sited and embedded in close proximity to the capital project that the 1% relates to.  For more info, click here.

I realize that the above is very much a complete simplification of the process.  In talking to those involved, I believe that in Calgary there has never been a case where new public art related to this program has gone over the 1% budget – not even close.

There is a seedy block in the downtown core that has been quite seedy for a very, very long time.  It is along the Seventh Avenue C-Train line.  Any long-term resident that has spent any amount of time in the downtown core, will know exactly what strip I am talking about, even though it is not nearly as seedy as it once was.

Yesterday I walked along that strip.  It is directly across from both Art Central and the new Telus Sky development.  It also borders where the former MaVA project was to have taken place, before the deal for MaVA fell apart sometime during the last year or two.  If someone who reads this has info on the MaVA project I would like to talk, and I would be very interested in receiving documentation relating to it.  But I digress.

Regardless of that, I stood at the intersection waiting for the light to change.  I have stood at this intersection many, many times since 2007.  I stood there when I had a dog that used the shrubbery in the area and I am positive that he even used the lamppost where this artwork was found to do his business when I had a place across the street in Art Central.

Do you think I ever noticed them before?  Nope.  Not even a clue.

Yesterday I did.

Today, I took photos.  The work is text based so I recorded what the text states.  Each work is on a two inch (approximately) high on a stainless steel band that fully surrounds each light standard and/or power pole.  One must circle the entire post to read what it says.  There are six bands attached to six different light standards on this block.  The same font is used on each band so I assume that they were laser-cut.  All six pieces were attached to each lamppost at eye level and located on the shady side of the block – between the Hyatt and the Bay.

Starting at the Central United Church end of the block, while looking across the street toward the C-Train platform, and moving toward the Palomino and the Hyatt as if reading a book, the six read as follows:

  • IMAGES OF ANOTHER TRAIN IN MY MIND
  • THIS SPIRIT OF WESTERN CLOUDS FORM INTO
  • A RANGE OVER THE RISE INTO NIGHT
  • THAT IS A HORSE RIDING HARD ACROSS
  • IN TIME TO HEART BEAT RYTHYM
  • TRAIN SET FOOT ACROSS THIS LAND AGAIN

Each band almost as if it is an incomplete fragment of a thought.

I did some further research and from sources I believe to be dependable, there should be four more located near City Hall for a total of ten pieces.  As a result, I walked the 7th Avenue corridor between the Bay and East Village on both sides of the street and then walked around City Hall and Olympic Plaza as well.  I could not find them.  I wonder whatever happened to the other four poles that the artist has indicated should exist.

Maybe I am blind and can’t see them, but at least I now know that they should exist – somewhere.

Yet another mystery on my hands.  Now to find them.

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