One year anniversary of this blog, with review

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Today is the blog’s one year anniversary.

In my original post the discussion centred on digging out rocks from what was to become a new garden. I talked about hard work and finding interesting things amongst the rubble. So it seems appropriate that I revisit the same image from a year ago.

I closed out my first post with this:

That is one of the things I want to do with this blog – search amongst the rocky ground of our cultural landscape and find interesting things.

I think I have done that.

Now, a bit of history

The primary reason why I created this blog back then was that I had just applied for a job. In my mind, it had my name all over it. The only weakness that I perceived was that depending on who interviewed me, there possibly could be an assumption that my skill sets were focussed on the commercial gallery world only and not enough knowledge outside of that small word – whether this was correct or not.

However, I knew this assumption was wrong, as would anyone else who had dealt with, or talked with me previously to any extent. Those people would know that my interests are actually quite broad and encompassing.

Regardless, the end result was that I did not even receive acknowledgement of my application – much less an interview. Stuff happens and I am not complaining. However, my interest the subject carried the blog forward nevertheless and it still does.

I still don’t have that job in the arts community, but as seen here my interest still remains. Sometimes being an informed outsider is more interesting, because one can reflect my interests and as a result there is no axe to grind.

I will however continue to carry on with my blog when time allows, as I have done since that time.

* * *

As I look back on this past year there have been some very interesting developments in the cultural landscape in Calgary, not to mention exciting programming which various places have done that I am not even going to talk about.

Some of these things I talked about during the past year. Others I did not.

In some cases I now wish that I did.

Either way, I mention the interesting developments below, and depending on how things go for the upcoming year I may even talk about them this time around.

We have seen the following cultural items between August 2013 and August 2014 (and I am sure that I am missing something – probably significant. So forgive me in advance:

  • Of course it is necessary to mention (as it was the big story locally for the year) that during June 2013, many artists and arts organizations were affected by the flooding in the city. This time last year (two months after the fact) things were starting to get back to normal. I probably mentioned it before, I spent the month of July 2013 for the most part in High River helping those who live there, to get back on their feet again. This is something that is quite close to my heart as a result.
  • Calgary Opera started its initial summer outdoor opera festival in conjunction with East Village. It is called Opera in the Village.
  • A new arts facility opened in Forest Lawn last August. It is a partnership between Calgary Arts Development Authority and the International Avenue BRZ, which is called Art Box on 17E.
  • Beakerhead, after a soft opening and trial-run in 2012 and held its first full-scale event last September.
  • Nuit Blanche had its initial and highly successful iteration in September 2012. It was originally envisioned to be an annual event. However, for reasons unknown, this was changed to become a biennial event at some point during the spring or summer of 2013. To meet programming obligations that a few public galleries and organizations had made for the Nuit Blanche weekend in September 2013, a new festival was formed to fulfill these commitments called Intersite Visual Arts Festival.
  • In September to kick off Beakerhead, Calgary Mini Maker Faire had its first event
  • ArtWalk limped along to celebrate its 30th year. In this city that is quite an achievement. I made a post about it, but for whatever reason it was never published and has been saved as a draft only. I only realized this fact much after the fact. Maybe if and when my blog gets published, I will include it.
  • Also in September, the folks at cSpace Projects initiated a similar type of follow-on event to the highly successful Wreck City event held in the spring of 2013, calling upon many of the same people involved. This project they called Phantom Wing.
  • The New Gallery moved from its location in Art Central to its new location in the heart of Chinatown.
  • The old Seafood Market building which was a vacant building since 2004 was used as artist spaces for a two-year period between 2010 -2012. In the summer/fall of 2013 it was finally demolished at some unknown point. Although it was already scheduled for demolition, it probably was affected by the flood as many buildings in the area were. The demolition occurred to make way for a new condo development in the East Village.
  • A new public art gallery using a different model was introduced called the Art Forum Gallery Association. The two key personnel were previously closely affiliated with the Triangle Gallery of Visual Art and are doing what made that organization successful, keeping its costs down and its options open. One was a former president of the board, Michael Rae and the other was a former director, Jacek Malec.
  • The Blue Ring sculpture by inges idee was unveiled in the midst of the city election. Remarkably, it has remained a topic of discussion and occasional subject of a letter to the editor since that time. I guess in a way it will most likely bear a striking resemblance to the Peace Bridge situation. If I was to speculate, I would expect to soon see it in use in tourist advertising for the city, just like the Peace Bridge now is. Maybe that will be what it takes for it to grow on people, hearing how wonderful it is from people in other parts of the world.
  • Demolition began on the King Edward School to make way for the new arts incubator that cSpace is developing in the community of South Calgary.
  • The chapter at the Art Gallery of Calgary which involved the Valerie Cooper fiasco finally came to a close in November, when she was sentenced to a year in jail for her actions. What that means is with good behavior, she should be released at any time now, if not already.
  • Calgary Arts Development Authority and Studio C both move out of the lower floor of Art Central. Both organizations now occupy separate spaces on the same floor of the Burns Building connected to the Calgary Centre for Performing Arts.
  • The Firefighters Museum of Calgary put its collection into storage in late 2013 and is available by appointment only until it reopens sometime in the next year or so in renovated premises.
  • For the second time in approximately a decade, the Institute of Modern and Contemporary Art (IMCA); the Triangle Gallery of Visual Arts (aka MOCA-Calgary); and the Art Gallery of Calgary (AGC) all tried to hookup and jump into bed with each other. This was something that they originally tried to do when I was sitting on the board of the Triangle. This time, unlike the previous occasion the result was a successful consummation and marriage. The new organization is now called Contemporary Calgary.
  • The former vacant building which at one time housed the former Calgary Planetarium; Calgary Science Centre; The Children’s Museum; and TELUS World of Science was put up out to tender by the City which owns it (or owned it), for use as a cultural or heritage space. The successful applicant was Creative Calgary.
  • The amazing sculpture by Dennis Oppenheim’s Device to Root Out Evil was quietly removed after the end of its five-year lease in January 2014. It was situated on the Dominion Bridge Building grounds with much fanfare during Jeff Spalding’s tenure as head of the Glenbow Museum during June 2008. This relocation to Calgary, was partly a direct result of NIMBYism and the surrounding controversy that occurred during its two and a half year residency near Coal Harbour in Vancouver. Of course this whole situation is highly ironic. I have confidence in how smart my readers are, so I don’t need to fully explain where the irony originates, however I find it peculiar that inges idee was commissioned and created a popular new sculpture in the general vicinity of Coal Harbour. It was installed about a year after the Oppenheim piece left for Calgary. This only further illustrates how fickle tastes can be when it comes to public art and how these tastes can vary widely from city to city.
  • In the absence of the Oppenheim piece at the Dominion Bridge compound, a new programming space called Passage was developed and has shown a rotating schedule of exhibitions, usually video, installation or sculpture. Having heard quite a bit about it before it was operational, I believe that it is exposed somewhat to the elements which limits the type of work that can be shown.
  • Stride Gallery which was deeply affected by the flood, spent most of the fall and winter temporarily sharing space with Truck Gallery. In the early part of 2014, they moved back to the space next door to where they used to be, on the other side of the railway tracks two blocks away from City Hall, on Macleod Trail.
  • Back in the summer of 2012 a new organization called Gorilla House Live Art held its first art battle. It continued hosting weekly art battles until around January when they were informed by their landlord that the building they occupied was destined to be converted into a sushi restaurant. Recently, the building was surrounded by metal protective fencing. Presumably this means some sort of development will be taking place soon. Whether the Gorilla House will be resurrected remains to be seen. If it does, I am sure I will write about it.
  • A small and ambitious pop-up gallery space was introduced into the community of Bridgeland called the Tiny Gallery in early 2014. It is unique for its use of a stand-alone gallery space that occupies the footprint of a postal box.
  • After years of uncertainty, the former York Hotel which was originally intended to be incorporated into a purpose-built cultural space, the façade of which was put into storage in 2008, was finally put on indefinite hold. In that news story, the space it was to occupy will now be used as an open plaza instead. Various anchor tenants were proposed for this space from the time it was originally proposed as part of The Bow development, most notably the Portrait Gallery of Canada. The Portrait Gallery, like the York Hotel, also was put into abeyance by the Federal Government which made the announcement via a news release issued late on Friday, Nov. 7, 2008.
  • The old King Edward Hotel (aka the King Eddie) had the sign and bricks removed from its site. Presumably, and it is my understanding that they will become part of the architectural design, once the exciting new National Music Centre building is built on its site and the site across the street. Both sides are doing structural work above grade.
  • Alberta College of Art and Design, after years of trying, finally received approval to offer its first graduate degree program, a Master of Fine Arts in Craft Media beginning in 2015.
  • After a couple years of consultation the #YYCArtPlan came to fruition which resulted in a new Public Art Policy and a document called Leading a Creative Life
  • The last tenant at Art Central finally left at the end of June. The building was closed probably around the time Stampede happened, which corresponds to the time when the announcement that the space would be redeveloped as the new Telus Sky building which was made during Stampede 2013.
  • The Calgary Centre for Performing Arts expanded the amount of display windows for the visual arts, creating new display windows for both the Alberta Craft Council and the University of Calgary. I hear a rumour from a usually reliable source that there might be another new window on the way. From past experience with all rumours, it usually best to wait until the announcement is made to know with certainty if the rumour is actually either truth or fabrication. If it is true, I am sure I will write about it.
  • Alberta Printmakers Society moved to a new location about a week ago. I plan to write something about this in the near future.

As can be seen above, this was an exciting year for the arts in Calgary.


To return to the concept of building a rocky environment – just as I dicussed a year ago.

In that regard, I am reminded of the French postman, Ferdinand Cheval [1836-1924] who spent thirty-three years building Le Palais idéal in Hauterives.

He is someone I feel a special affinity to in this regard. His work was championed by the Surrealists more or less after he had died. I hope that is not the case with me. I hope that my passion and building in the arts community will be recognized while I can feel appreciated and that my work was worth all the trouble.

Cheval built a beautiful naïve palace one stone at a time. Every day for thirty-three years, he brought home at least one stone that he found in his day to day work.

In time his pockets were not enough to carry what he found. So he brought a basket to carry the stones.

When that was not enough, he used a wheelbarrow.

It is my hope that this blog will be like that beautiful structure Le Palais idéal.


inges idee at Telus Spark Brainasium

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Yesterday I spent a few hours at the new Telus Spark building. This is the new building that opened in late October 2011 after the formerly named Telus World of Science Centre vacated the former Planetarium.

It is a signature building that has enlivened the Nose Creek valley and is particularly noticeable at night as one drives into the city along the Deerfoot. It is in close proximity to the main Zoo parking lot. Both are in a long-neglected area, which was described in the announcement of the new location for the Science Centre in February 2010 as, “a former “Red Light” district in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The site also housed stockyards for various ranching and meat-packing companies. Up until the mid-twentieth century, the area was designated for urban and industrial waste management to incinerate garbage and dispose of waste.”

This is certainly not the case any longer.

There are a lot of things happening in the area surrounding Telus Spark. One of the big things is a new development called the Brainasium that according to the signage on site, it is scheduled to open in July 2014. As there is only one day left in the month and they are doing active construction, it would seem rather doubtful that this will happen. I guess it will just open when it is done.

I was talking to one of the ladies involved with Telus Spark last week while on a lunch break at their display tent along Stephen Avenue Mall where they were helping promote Beakerhead and the Mini Maker Faire. The Brainasium will be a big outdoor park, which will have a giant slide that is under construction right now; and a giant set of ears; and a teeter-totter designed for six, plus more. For anyone visiting with children (or if they are a child at heart) this will be a lot of fun. You can read more about it here.

One of the interesting things that I noticed in this space is a brand new sculpture. It is by the four member German artist team (comprised of Hans Hemmert, Axel Lieber, Thomas A. Schmidt and Georg Zey) who operate as an artist group called inges idee.

Observant readers may recall that inges idee was inadvertently involved in one of the biggest recent public art controversies in Calgary. This occurred when their sculpture colloquially known as the Blue Ring, or more formally as Travelling Light, was unveiled in the middle of the most recent civic election last fall. The timing was impeccably unfortunate. Last October, I wrote about this piece and the politics around this work at the time this situation occurred.

Personally, I suspect that the Travelling Light piece; and as it was with the previous controversial project Santiago Calatrava’s Peace Bridge over the Bow River; both have (or will) grow(n) on people over time once the immediate politics have diminished over time – which always happens.

In that respect both are like the highly controversial Mario H. Armengol [Spanish/British, 1909-1995] group of sculptures entitled Brotherhood of Mankind, circa 1966-67 (or more colloquially the Family of Man) which was removed from the United Kingdom Pavilion at Expo ’67 in Montreal and placed in Calgary shortly thereafter as a gift to the City by a former resident. It is my opinion that people will then be able see the Travelling Light piece for what it is and will become – a circular frame that shows the beauty of the city, along with the landscape and a view of mountains in the distance. Like all art, not all people will appreciate it (just as it is with any other style of work). As my mother would say when I was a child and trying out a new food, “you don’t have to like it, just try it and see whether you do.” But I digress.

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Back to this new work by inges idee.

The sculpture that has been installed in the Brainasium at Telus Spark is of a large anchor 25 foot (7 metre) high. It was installed in late 2013, probably shortly after Travelling Light was fully installed. However, with all the construction that is currently happening in the Brainasium area surrounding it, the appearance is that it is newly installed.

There was very little press about this work – unlike its kin Travelling Light (or the Blue Ring). In fact, Telus Spark did not even issue a press release about it as they did with the Request for Proposals (RFP) in July 2012. I suspect that they will once the first stage of the Brainasium is open. This illustrates how much politics surrounded the other work last October. It also illustrates why the artists from inges idee seemed genuinely surprised at the feedback in the press and popular opinion; and why they took the unusual step to issue a statement in response.

Enough of the politics, now let’s get back to talking about the work.

In the July 2012 press release, Telus Spark asked artist(s) to make proposals on the theme of water. They expand this by saying:

The following theme is to be followed in each pitch: a strong and highly visible linking of water as a force, resource, conduit, cycle and medium for expression. The art piece will provoke curiosity, evoke the power of the outdoors and connect people to the environment that TELUS Spark occupies.

The Anchor with the attached chain has a definite connection to water. Interestingly the links in the chain get progressively smaller as it gets closer to the top to accentuate the illusion of perspective and fading to infinity. For whatever strange reason, this makes me feel like one of the lobsters beating a clamshell in the song Under the Sea from The Little Mermaid (1989). You’re welcome!

As a piece of art in a creative environment it allows for imagination to take hold. As alluded to in my comment about the song Under the Sea, this work illustrates how an anchor is a fixed point of contact to land, while the boat or ship that the chain is connected to is allowed to ebb and flow with the natural rhythm of water. The rusted colour and appearance only further solidify this connection and dialogue.

For further discussion ,there are a couple other pieces that create a dialogue with this work.

The Drop


In this way it creates an association with another work created by inges idee, a 65 foot (20 metre) high blue sculpture entitled The Drop, 2009. It was sited prior to the Olympics at Coal Harbour near the Vancouver Convention Centre at the end of Burrard Street. This work is popular with the locals and tourists alike, reflecting the large amount of rain that falls in Vancouver. These two works create an interesting conversation with each other. One of the artists (Axel Lieber) is quoted in the Vancouver Sun with regards to this piece as saying:

“(The Drop) balances delicately on the round base, while its end points into the open sky. This sculpture comments on the diagonal shape of the architecture and the columns and stands almost like a figure head on a sailing ship on the location.”
It also creates a strong, dynamic diagonal between the seawall and the overhanging roof of the Convention Centre.

Infinite Tire


Interestingly, the Anchor also holds an interesting discourse with a Douglas Coupland sculpture entitled Infinite Tire, 2012 as well. Coupland’s piece was commissioned by Canadian Tire. It, like The Drop, is also located in Vancouver in the lot of a shopping centre at the corner of SW Marine Drive and Ontario Street. This work has a similarity based on the progressively smaller tires that act in a similar manner as the chain in the ingres idee Anchor at Telus Spark. Like the Anchor, the Coupland sculpture Infinite Tire is described in a similar way from a 2012 article in the Georgia Straight which states:

The 18-metre-tall sculpture, titled “Infinite Tire”, is a tower made from 18 whitewall tires stacked on top of each other. The tires—created from a fibreglass product specifically for the installation—become progressively smaller in diameter as the tower rises, from 163 centimetres at the bottom to 36 cm at the top.

When looking up at the sculpture from near its base, the decreasing size of the tires makes the stack appear to be stretching off toward a distant vanishing point in the sky.

All told this Calgary piece seems interesting. I look forward to being able to see it closer than I was able to do yesterday, from the outside of the construction site. I suspect it will be complete sometime during the next month or two.