Art Central / Telus Sky next steps


Recently as I walked along the C-Train platform adjoining Art Central and the Len Weary Building, I noticed a building permit sign out front.  Here it is.

Information extracted from the sign would indicate that the re-development is covered under Bylaw# 5D2014 and those who might be affected should make written submission to the City Clerk’s office by no later than 2014 January 02.  This will be followed by a hearing in City Council chambers on 2014 January 13.

Of course this makes me wonder, whatever will happen to the W.H. Cushing Workplace School located in the Len Weary Building? Where will the children go? And, where will the school re-locate?

This development, as expected, appears to be moving forward.

Early painting of the Three Sisters, Canmore available

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In my former life, I used to sell art.  Predominantly it was Canadian art from all periods.  Today I am selling for one of my clients a very nice early watercolour of the Three Sisters near Canmore.  It probably dates from around 1910, maybe as late as 1920.  It a modest size, image is approximately 10″ x 15″ (or 25 x 38cm) and from what is visible, it appears to be professionally framed, although I have not taken it apart to confirm.

It was painted by an artist called Alfred Arthur (A.A.) Cox, FRIBA [1873-1944].  The initials indicate that he was a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects.  According to the label affixed to the back he was living in Vancouver when this was executed.

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This delicate watercolour is painted in the British landscape tradition of the C.P. Rail artists, with an awareness of more recent art movements from around the turn of the century, such as impressionism.  The Glenbow Museum did a show of the C.P. Rail artists’ work and published an award-winning book on them a number of years ago.  It is through these artists that our understanding of the Canadian Rocky Mountain landscapes were first brought to a wider audience in the late 1800s, both in Canada and overseas.

In my research I could find no written biography of A.A. Cox.  So without any further ado here is one that I have prepared.


A.A. Cox was probably well-connected with the Anglo community in Montreal.  While in Montreal he designed or worked on parts of a number of churches connected to the Anglican tradition – most notably:

In addition to this he designed buildings on campus at Bishop’s University, Lennoxville and the former “finishing school” Dunham Ladies College. He also did a number of bank buildings for the Eastern Townships Bank and the Bank of British North America in various locations around Quebec, and for the same banking institutions and other banks after 1910 in BC.

He also designed major alterations and improvements to the office and club of the Canadian Society of Civil Engineering in Montreal.


We know with certainty that A. A. Cox was active in Vancouver in the early 1900s and probably had enough work lined up to precipitate his move west.

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His connections in Montreal served him well when he moved to Vancouver, as he designed the local Canadian Pacific Railway treasurer, William Ferriman Salsbury’s Mission style mansion located at 1790 Angus Drive in Shaughnessey Heights, Vancouver.  He also was to design mansions for other prominent individuals such as the Hon. Bowser’s (was this the former BC Attorney-General and later Premier in 1915/1916?) mansion on Rockland Avenue in Victoria.

He is listed as the architect of record for the Carter Cotton Building in Vancouver.  It was completed in 1908 and is located at 198 West Hastings Street.  He also did other office towers and commercial buildings around the same time such as the Canada Life Building.

Originally the Carter Cotton Building was used as the offices of the Vancouver Daily News Advertiser which was owned by the extremely interesting Carter Cotton who used this newspaper as a platform to get into politics.  This newspaper later was taken over by the Vancouver Province where the building later served as the Province’s offices.

As stated previously, he also continued his banking architectural commissions, but expanded his practice to include a number of commissions for the Vancouver General Hospital, the Girl’s Industrial School and the Oakalla Prison at Deer Lake, near Burnaby.  He closed out the architectural part of his career in Port Rupert where he designed a movie theatre and the Masonic Temple.

Whether he lived out the rest of his life in the lower BC mainland or moved elsewhere for the remainder of his life is unknown at this time.

Like many architects, he had an interest in art and/or painting, but like many other architects, probably never made much work as much of his creative thought was used in designing buildings.

This work is for sale on behalf of my client.  For more information click here.

Reminder. Election date is tomorrow.


We have just over a day before the polls open for the municipal election.

Being an arts based blog we are interested in the arts and providing the support that the arts need to survive and thrive.

Fortunately, we have had lots of opportunity to discuss the arts in Calgary during this election campaign.  Not all campaigns are this fortunate.  Most notably it is because of the big blue ring which happened to be installed near the airport right in the middle of the campaign.  It also got good coverage from all news outlets, both positive and negative, including a number of front page stories.

We very much like the fact that people are talking about art whether they like it or not.

We are also of the opinion that in the arts, all publicity is good.  There is no bad publicity – only opinions that are uneducated or ignorant (as in, lacking knowledge or awareness in general).  These opinions serve to remind us that there is always more work to be done in educating the population at large about how important culture is to the integral fabric of any society, whether historically or contemporary.

With that in mind, a friend of the blog drew attention to one the mayoral candidates (Jon Lord’s) comments on public art which he posted to his personal facebook page, about a week ago.  It is posted above and seemingly provides his personal guidance on how much support should be provided to public art in Calgary and what form it should take (more or less).

He indicated which community a mural by Daniel Weisgerber is located in to support his comments.  Using google maps and a bit of investigative research and sleuthing we were able to see what $800 will get for public art.  Here is the image (or at least the image we suspect is the most likely possibility).


Sadly, the image quality is not very good, so it is somewhat hard to tell exactly what it looks like and we don’t know what type of work the artist does, although it would seem to be a landscape-based composition with grain elevators(?).  Because we have scale based on a vehicle, a doorway, and a person walking down the street, we can guesstimate it is probably around eight feet square and we will use that measurement for our purposes.

The mural is 64 square feet in size, which works out to $12.50 a square foot (all in).  Doing a quick online search we found a local commercial indoor painter that charges $2.00/sq. ft. (labour only).  Whether that is on the low end or the high end, we don’t know, but will assume the lower end as the term “value” was part of the company name.

In the spirit of education, and to speak to that, let’s see what that $800 gets:

  • The commercial interior house painter using the numbers above would charge $128 (plus paint).  Because it is such a small area to be covered, they probably have a base-line minimal charge just to show up on site which covers set-up and take-down, materials, travel and the minimal three hours to pay their employees – so let’s say $250 as a result.
  • An important consideration is that the mural is located outside and would require more work to prepare than inside.
  • The other consideration is the quality of paints.  Artist paints are not inexpensive, and house paint is very cheap by comparison.
  • Then you must consider that the muralist paints to create an image with a brush which involves blending, composition, planning and probably research and preliminary sketches to get the image that is satisfactory to the client; whereas the commercial interior painter simply uses a roller to cover a wall typically using the one colour the client wants, without detail or shading.
  • Commercial painters have a reasonable expectation to have a job most days if their pricing or skills are competitive and they want to work.  Muralists will not have the same demand for their services and it would be sporadic at best, so pricing typically would be higher as a result.

Just a personal observation, based on that alone, it would seem that whomever commissioned this mural probably did not pay enough or the artist did not charge enough.  Nonetheless, it is a moot point.

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There is still time to ask your candidates what their positions are on the issues that matter to you.  Check your candidate’s platforms to see where they stand on things like the arts.  Also be aware of the resources available as some organizations will ask the candidates questions on your behalf.

In this context, it is a proper time to mention ArtsVote Calgary.  They ask all candidates (Mayor, Councillor, public and separate school trustees) common questions with an arts focus.  Not all candidates have responded – Jon Lord being one of them (and for this reason alone, why his comments were included above and discussed).

The questions asked by ArtsVote Calgary of all candidates is as follows:

  1. 1.     If elected, what are some steps that you will take to address the following issues currently affecting the arts in Calgary?
    1. a.     Live arts performances, art exhibitions, and public art displays are largely concentrated in the inner-city and may not be accessible by all Calgarians.
    2. b.     Many young Canadian artists are attracted to life and careers in other municipalities, in part because of the high cost of living of Calgary and lack of affordable housing.
  2. 2.     When travelling as an elected representative or hosting out-of-town visitors, how would you promote the arts scene in Calgary? How would you describe the strengths of Calgary’s arts community?
  3. 3.     How do you engage in, participate in and/or support the arts in Calgary? Please feel free to share an experience in the city at large or in your own constituency.

The results are posted in links provided on this page

On a unrelated side note, there is also an excellent overview of the politics in this election.  It is a long read, but gives very interesting and balanced analysis about the Manning Centre/Nenshi dynamic.  Review it here

Please take the time to review.

Get out and vote.

Make your voice heard.

More questions than answers

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I see the Edmonton Journal picked up a story yesterday that surfaced during the middle of last week. First a bit of background. The current dean of the arts department Lesley Cormack sent a memo informing faculty that “effective immediately, I am asking (the registrar) to begin suspending admission to the following (20) programs or concentrations” in the humanities. She then went on to request that “arguments against these recommended suspensions should be made, in writing, to the Dean, by September 3rd.” See the full memorandum here

Then according to the article covering the same story in yesterday’s Edmonton Journal – see we read the following:
“The timing is far from ideal. Classes start in less than a month.
And many academics and university administrators — including, as it happens, the dean of arts herself — are on vacation. The situation leaves professors scrambling. Incoming and returning students wondering whether the courses and programs in which they’ve enrolled will have any future or if they should change majors now, before they end up headed down a dead-end road.”

Seriously? The Dean drops this bomb and then goes on vacation? But I digress.

Nor am I am not even going to touch on the recent news as of late yesterday afternoon that the province is investigating the University of Alberta finances as per the attached update from the chair of the Board of Governors as it is an administrative matter and not germane to my comments.

* * * * *

This situation is somewhat reminiscent of the highly publicized local situation that elicited front page coverage in Calgary for a while.  It also is an issue that both Mount Royal University and the University of Calgary had to deal with, just after the school term ended this past spring. Both universities (as did other local educational institutions) took the budget cuts announced by the province on the chin. Which programmes were the losers? One could probably figure that out by doing a simple online search – but similar to what is happening at the University of Alberta now, it largely was the humanities and arts.

Clearly there are issues that need to be addressed. Hard decisions must also be made. There are no easy solutions.

Having said that, this prompts the question, why does it appear that the arts and humanities typically are the first programs to get axed when funding cuts are announced? Are they extraneous programs that should only be funded when times are good?

The follow-on question is – at the undergraduate level should students be more interested in getting a liberal arts education or a technical education?

The American Council for Education wrote about this matter just last year (see Here Clare T. Christ, president of Smith College in Northampton, MA states:
“Yet, judging the value of a liberal arts education, even with a purely economic calculus, shows it to be more relevant than ever before. It is no longer news that career trajectories are varied and multiple; that our professional pursuits have distinct chapters over the course of our lives; and that, especially for women, the ability to step off and back on the career track during childbearing years is critical to advancement. Flexibility, creativity, critical thinking, and strong communication skills (particularly writing) are at the core of liberal arts education and critical to success today and in the future. It’s not surprising that a recent survey by the Association of American Colleges and Universities shows that more than three-quarters of employers would recommend an education with this emphasis to a young person they know.”

Also this past Spring the American Academy of Arts and Sciences wrote a report entitled The Heart of the Matter (as found here In this report they set forth three goals.
1. Educate Americans in the knowledge, skills, and understanding they will need to thrive in a twenty-first-century democracy;
2. Foster a society that is innovative, competitive, and strong;
3. Equip the nation for leadership in an interconnected world.

Just today in the Washington Post an article was publishing about the importance of changing the current vogue of a STEM-based educational stream that has been popular since the 1990s into a more balanced STEAM-based educational stream instead – see the story

We must ask both ourselves as taxpayers and voters a few questions – do we want technical universities that teach its students to do skills, or do we want our students to be capable of thinking, creativity and communicating information in a world that is rapidly changing? Where the skills one learns early in one’s career are not the same that they will use when they retire? What skill sets will still remain relevant during that timeframe? And, is cutting these programs now something we will regret doing in a few years?

To borrow from the paragraph copied above in the Edmonton Journal – which educational stream is the “real” dead-end road? The “liberal arts” or a technical education.