Solar Flare Installation Stephen Avenue Walk

Solar-Flare-Installation-Stephen-Avenue-Walk-Dec-10-2013 (683x1024) Tonight I was walking downtown along Stephen Avenue Mall in front of the Art Gallery of Calgary quite late. It was fortuitous timing as three artists (Caitlind r.c. Brown, Lane Shordee and Ivan Ostapenko) were in the midst of installing the new Solar Flare light installation, which was commissioned by the Calgary Downtown BRZ.  Moments after I arrived, they wheeled away the lift.  Fortunately, I was able to get in a few pictures of the installation when the new installation was not fully installed and before they moved the lift to park it one of which I used above. The Roots The roots of this solar-powered installation were formed during the first Calgary Nuit Blanche which occurred during Calgary 2012 and was originally proposed as an annual event.  Now it appears to be a biannual event as it did not happen this past year and was replaced the newly formed Intersite Visual Arts Festival that occurred on the same weekend as Nuit Blanche should have happened.  All this contains some speculation on my part, so here goes.  No doubt this happened (in part) so that public institutions which must plan their programming far in advance could fulfill their obligations to the contracted artists during what they previously expected would be the weekend of Nuit Blanche .  But I digress. During the 2012 Nuit Blanche event one of the most interesting events was an installation that contained both burnt-out and live incandescent light bulbs.  These bulbs were all connected to hanging pulls that turned the lights on and off.  It was in the form of a large cloud and it magical.  People loved it and it became an internet sensation – and rightfully so.  From my recollection when I attended the night of Nuit Blanche, it could best be described as enchanting. The images spread quickly.  In fact, months later there was a show at an art gallery in Moscow of a new version of this cloud that no doubt came partly as a result of images that were picked up off the internet.  This new work was constructed in Russia.  A number of months later a smaller commission was completed at what I believe is a gay bar or club in Chicago.  As was the case in Russia and Calgary, this newly formed cloud (truth be told – clouds, as there were more than one cloud installed in this club) also met with success. Phantom Wing Fast forward to the recent Phantom Wing project at cSPACE King Edward School.  The artists involved with the Nuit Blanche Cloud also formed the Phantom Wing signage for that event as well.  The signage subsequently also was modified somewhat and used for the Phantom Wing website. Once the Phantom Wing project had barely wrapped up, they were off to recover the Russian cloud and then re-install it in the heart of Prague, Czech Republic alongside the Vlatava river.  This was for an event similar to Nuit Blanche and probably was as captivating as it was at each other location it has been shown at. Sometimes the history behind something is important.  This is one of those cases.  It is very interesting seeing where this light installation by Caitlind r.c. Brown and Wayne Garrett came from as it might otherwise be easily missed due to the location and the temporary nature of its installation during the next few months. Events There also will be an artist talk with Caitlind r.c. Brown and Wayne Garrett which will take place at the Art Gallery of Calgary on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 6:00pm. Smart move on the part of the Calgary Downtown BRZ on commissioning this work.  If you are downtown at some point between now and early February check it out.

BRZs and the arts

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Calgary’s Fast Forward often has some interesting stories in its weekly edition – especially as it relates to the arts.

I picked up the very thin newspaper today and brought it home.  A small booklet fell out of the centre of the newspaper.  I did a quick glance at the title Shop Local Guide 2013 and quickly tossed it into my recycling bin.

Then after a couple minutes I thought to myself, “maybe I should look at the table of contents before I toss it for good.”  Sure enough there is a four-page story on Business Revitalization Zones (BRZs) in Calgary – there are ten of them.  I used to pay dues to a BRZ when I had my own business and have some business history with another one and a past client relationship with yet another.

Right on the masthead is mention of two things I have discussed in this blog previously – ArtBOX on 17E and Beakerhead.  OK, so now I think to myself, “I am very happy I did not toss that booklet and forget about it.”

Inside the article as someone who has been interested in organizational structures since childhood, is an interesting sentence that leads off paragraph eight, which is not fully explained later:

Annie MacInnis is executive director of the Kensington BRZ and current chair of CBIZ, which represents most Calgary BRZs (International Avenue and Victoria Park have chosen not to be members).

Also not explained is the acronym CBIZ.  I guess they were not expecting someone to care.  So I did some research.  I love research, and found out it stands for Calgary’s Business Revitalization Zones and when I checked earlier tonight their website is temporarily down.

This is a rather interesting piece of what at first glance would seem like an unremarkable snippet of information.  This is especially so from a blog perspective which talks about the arts; and from the perspective of a writer who has a lot of knowledge in this area.

Here is why.

  1. About a year ago just before Christmas, Market Collective had to vacate a space located in the Kensington BRZ district and found a temporary location shortly thereafter within the International Avenue BRZ district.  As a casual and non-participatory observer, let’s just say this was somewhat of a fiasco in the press as I recall.  I have no idea who was fault or even if anyone was; what the circumstances surrounding the move were; etc. – and it doesn’t matter.  It is all water under the bridge now.
  2. Within the week before the flood this past June, Victoria Park BRZ partnered up with Sled Island, which is kind-of-a-big-deal.  In conjunction with Sled Island’s arts festival which occupied spaces in the BRZ, the BRZ planned to do a MarketWalk (except the flood happened instead) and had to get re-scheduled.
  3. In August(?) the Victoria Park BRZ MarketWalk was rescheduled and held in conjunction with the annual PARKSale (which is something like Market Collective, except outdoors) which was held in the Haultain Park.
  4. In August, International Avenue BRZ partnered up with Calgary Arts Development Authority to convert an empty warehouse into an arts space.  There have been a number of events held as a result including a theatre performance during Beakerhead, recitals, exhibitions and much more.  It is going to be an exciting project when it is fully operational as it is still in the early stages of development.
  5. In September, Beakerhead had the rocket ship located within the Victoria Park BRZ district, which I wrote about earlier.

Then I look at what the other eight BRZs have done involving the arts in that same timeframe.  Outside of the occasional thing during the summer in the Downtown BRZ especially on Stephen Avenue Mall – not much.  You have things like:

  1. The Pride Parade
  2. Cowtown Opera pop-up performances during lunch hour
  3. The monthly artwalk held on First Thursdays during the two or three months of summer which is ironic since First Thursday was cancelled about a year ago and the Cultural District has been a virtually non-existent entity for a few years now.

I would like to think that because of the density of people during the work day and the nature of these type of events they would happen in the centre of the city regardless of whether the BRZ is involved or not.

Earlier I quoted from the FFWD story.  Here is the remainder of that paragraph eight as quoted earlier:

MacInnis says all BRZs in the province have worked together to update the description of their role, which will be considered as part of changes to the Municipal Government Act. If approved, it will state that BRZs are established “to advocate, promote and create a vibrant commercial area where community and business flourish.”

I also could go to great length about the connection between creative industry(ies), business and community.

There actually are a whole bunch of things that can be discussed in this context – things such as quality of life; livable cities; energizing street activity at non-peak hours; encouraging partnerships and relationship building; gentrification; arts as an agent of change; innovation; managing chaos and flux in changing times; creativity in organizations and planning; etc.  It just goes on and on. . . there are so many benefits to encouraging the arts in modern society.

So I am now really curious why the two BRZs that seem most focused on doing this (encouraging the arts) in the last short while, are not part of this larger consortium of BRZs.  All BRZs it would seem are working toward the same goal in different geographical areas.

What is the deal there?

I am sure there are other questions too, but I will leave it at that.

Human Weather Vanes

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This past Thursday I was downtown for most of the day. In the afternoon, I had coffee with a friend and we sought out a place to sit in the hot afternoon sun.  We were soaking up what, based on the weather advisory issued by Environment Canada last night calls for 5-10cm of snow tomorrow, which in turn would indicate that probably was the last non-coat wearing day of the year.

We found a nice coffee shop with sunny, street-level, outdoor seating alongside the building with the handsome and ruggedly elegant Beverly Pepper sculpture outside the front doors, across the street from Bankers Hall.

While sitting there I noticed that within the last week or two construction hoarding has gone up surrounding the series of Colette Whiten and Paul Kipps life-sized sculptures of people walking just outside the doors of the Bankers Hall East Tower.  The series of outdoor pieces are continued inside the building and reside in the cavernous lobby on similar mounts.  They are entitled Weather Vanes and probably work as described, as the sculptures are mounted on poles and are quite flat and made out of what I would assume is copper sheeting which appears to be hammered or shaped in some way.  If nothing else they give the impression that they probably move in the wind as you can see by the photo I took earlier this month.

It would not surprise me if this is the intent to work with the wind.  The building owners of Bankers Hall also placed what I can best describe as giant kitty litter scoops which in my own personal opinion only, are completely out of scale for the confined space on Stephen Avenue Mall between Bankers Hall and TD Square, almost to the point of being oppressive and overbearing [1.].  I am sure that they would be quite appropriate in a different context, but in my opinion, not there.  As I recall, when they were placed around the time the second tower went up, it was indicated in the media that they were intended and designed to break the wind that gusts in that corridor.  Whether they actually do that or not, I have no idea.  But I digress.

The city is very fortunate that we have two major sculptures by Colette Whiten.  As an artist Colette Whiten just won the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts earlier this year, which recognized her achievements over the past number of decades.  As a result of this Award she was included in an exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada between this past March through July.  One of the pieces included in the show entitled Watermark bears a continuation of thought from this work where it is stated she “rais(es) ‘home life’ from the realm of the mundane to that of art.”[2.]  In the Bankers Hall work, she used images of everyday Calgarians which brought together a cross-sampling ranging from mother holding the hand of a child to lunch-time athletes and business people – where, as in Ottawa, she raised the mundane to art.

The other major work of hers in the city, is located at the University of Calgary just outside of the Kinesiology Building near the Olympic Oval and MacEwan Hall.  It was commissioned by TransCanada PipeLines in the time leading up to the 1988 Winter Olympics.  For a brief post-Olympic period of time, it was located in front of City Hall and its short tenure there was full of controversy.

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I exaggerate, but not by much, as this was the case with almost every other piece of public art connected to the Olympics.

One of my early jobs was working in the public relations department at TransCanada PipeLines.  During that time I was fortunate to join the team which planned the move of her sculpture from City Hall to the University of Calgary on the Sunday of ArtWalk in conjunction with ArtCity.  Unfortunately I was unable to take part of the move, (even though I did get the tee-shirt which was destroyed in a bicycle accident a few years later) as I had previously committed to sit a commercial gallery for a couple who observed their religious practice on the day, as they had done in years prior.  If I was to guess the move happened probably in 1992, maybe 1993.  It has certainly found a very good home on campus where it is definitely appreciated and suits the surroundings.

With my short (ok maybe not so short) diversion – I go back to the hoarding and the Colette Whiten sculptures.  This summer I have noticed a lot of construction happening in lobbies and exteriors of buildings in the downtown core.  Why this is happening, I do not know.  Maybe it is an outcome of the flooding during the spring, maybe it is keeping up with the Jones’, maybe it is the economy, maybe it is an awareness that the buildings just need to be updated.  Whatever it is, it does not matter.

Obviously some sort of work is planned for the building lobby, or exterior, or both.  What it is I do not know.

What does intrigue me about office building renovations of late in Calgary, is that more often than not, artworks (and especially publicly situated artworks) are usually the casualty when this happens.

In renovations, the artworks seemingly disappear without a trace, often leaving behind sterile environments without any real personality.  They end up looking a lot like every other corporate lobby (lots of polished stone and glass), which is just slightly different from most others, based on the architect used to design it. [3.]

I have mentioned this before, and will mention it again as an example.  There was a major work by Takao Tanabe from his The Land series from the 1970s.  It was restrained, almost monochromatic and powerful, but yet at the same time it was very meditative.  If I was in the building and had a minute or two, I would stop in and pay tribute.  It was located in the main lobby of the Dome Tower in TD Square.  The building is part of The Core which has been undergoing renovations over the last number of years.  Somewhere along the way it disappeared and was replaced by a wall of polished marble and nothing else.  I am going to put this out there.  If someone reading this knows where it is and if it is currently unloved and under-appreciated in a warehouse – if the owner wants to give it to me, I will be humbled, but very happy to find a good home for it.

I could mention other examples, but I do not want to make this into a really long essay, as it is already long enough.

In closing, if this work by Colette Whiten is to be moved or removed, and I sincerely hope that it does not.  But if it does, it would be nice to find a home where the works will be appreciated – maybe even somewhere it could have an interesting dialogue with Bill McElcheran’s sculpture of two businessmen talking entitled The Conversation located only two blocks away.

___________________________

NOTES:

[1.] White, Richard. Calgary Herald.  October 26, 2013.  Public art best when it spurs debate. see http://www.calgaryherald.com/opinion/op-ed/White+Public+best+when+spurs+debate/9087316/story.html

[2.] Mallet, Josée-Britanie.  National Gallery of Canada press release dated March 20, 2013: see http://www.gallery.ca/en/about/1431.php

[3.] Krause, Darren.  Calgary Metro.  October 29, 2012.  Unbuilt Calgary.  Maverick mentality should extend to city architecturehttp://metronews.ca/voices/krause-encounters/419984/unbuilt-calgary-maverick-mentality-should-extend-to-city-architecture/

Really Long Table of Food

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Tonight is the Really Long Table event and all the tickets to attend have been sold.

What is it?

The City Palate magazine (http://www.citypalate.ca) is celebrating its 20th anniversary.  As part of the celebrations this event was created to raise funds for the Red Cross Flood Relief fund.  It is a five-course meal with food and wine pairings set up along a full block of Stephen Avenue Mall that the Art Gallery of Calgary is located on.  It starts at 6:00pm tonight and will have enough seats for 240 people.

Officially the seven restaurants involved are Blink; Catch & The Oyster Bar; Charcut; Divino; Teatro; The Belvedere; The Cellar and the Trib Steakhouse.  No doubt there are others well and the food will be delicious.

It should be an interesting event similar in some ways to the Diner en Blanc earlier this summer.  It is always a good thing to add a fundraising purpose to an event such as this.

Excitement galore

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This afternoon as part of Beakerhead there was a bunch of science buskers along Stephen Avenue Mall.  It is part of a program called Four to Six, and it will happen tomorrow after the work day between 4:00-6:00pm.

A couple highlights to look for:

  • Drivable furniture
  • Roaming scientists and laboratories – the one hosted by Telus Spark was very interesting and perfect for someone like me that has the attention span of a gnat.  I plan to write about it later.
  • Art cars.
  • Get your fortune told by a giant Chinese Fortune Cat (see picture above)
  • Giant motorized spider (see picture above)
  • Drummers drumming
  • Lego
  • A hand-held Theremin
  • Drinks and cocktails at Art Gallery of Calgary with the BassBus (see invitation in photo above)

It all adds up to an enjoyable way to end the work day.  If you have children bring them to work for the afternoon and then spend an hour or so visiting the various activities.  Or you if you are interested in someone at the office, invite them to join you after work and make a date ending up at the Art Gallery of Calgary.  It all adds up to a fun time where you can learn something new.

Another event to be aware of this weekend is the Calgary Mini Makers Faire.  It is kind of a big deal.  It started in California a number of years ago and it is finally here.  It will be held on Saturday and Sunday at the Alberta College of Art and Design (1407 – 14 Avenue NW) located on the crest of the hill beside SAIT and the Jubilee Auditorium.  There is a C-Train Station located close by too – SAIT/ACA/Jubilee.  Tickets are selling briskly, so I would make an encouragement to purchase as soon as possible.  Prices are $15-20 daily or $27-37 for the weekend, children under 12 are free and can be purchased online at http://www.makerfaireyyc.ca/

For more info on Beakerhead and other activities planned for the weekend visit their website http://beakerhead.org

A cow in Cowtown

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During the summer of 2000, Downtown Calgary became of dairy farm of a different sort for the summer.  Organizers in Zürich, Switzerland introduced the concept of bringing painted cows into the city during 1998 in a project called Land in Sicht.  The following year in summer 1999 the concept was taken to Chicago where the cows grazed along the Magnificent Mile along with a new cow that is used often around the world in various cities since that time.

Building the framework.

Bonnie Laycock saw the Chicago event and thought it would be a great way to generate a fundraising effort for local charities.  She rightfully thought that building on the “cow culture” associated with the Calgary Stampede would bring success and ready market for this project.  She along with other like-minded and community-oriented people then formed a new organization Udderly Art Inc. which was formed to oversee this project and bring it to fruition.  It was unlike anything that the city had ever experienced before.  The beneficiaries of this endeavor were various local, national and international charities.

The organizing committee got together and had to figure out who best to make the cows, since this was an independent organization from the Chicago one.

Their choice? 

Local artist, who made a name for himself by creating life-sized dinosaur models – Brian Cooley.  He set out to create a big doey-eyed jersey cow as the model from which all 125 Calgary cows were created from.

How did it work?

An individual or corporation would generally purchase the model and then donate it to a charity.  The artist and charity were matched somehow through various methods of selection.  During most of the summer, once the cows were painted or completed they were allowed to graze along Stephen Avenue Mall. After the summer had ended, at a large fundraising auction the dairy cows were auctioned off to the highest bidder and the designated charities would in turn receive the funds.

It was a win/win situation for all parties involved.  It also built community and connections with groups, people and organizations that may not have crossed paths before.

So what happened to the cows since 2000?

There is a small herd of dairy cattle located on the +15 level of the Centennial Parkade in downtown Calgary.  The others have been dispersed.  Occasionally, we hear about them in the local papers, but usually they are forgotten and quietly graze wherever they ended up only remembered by their owners and those who happen to pass by.

Recently, in my travels I came across a stray from the herd in Centennial Parkade.

The artist who painted this cow is Lynnie Wonfor and it is entitled Knee Deep in Wild Flowers.  It was donated by Viking Management Inc. to the Calgary Stampede Foundation, which was also the charity that received the funds when sold.  Who purchased it is unknown.  From information believed to be accurate, it seems as if the flowers were painted based on flowers on the country property where the CEO of Viking Management then lived during 1999.

Now this cow seems to have traded the country life for one where she is penned in on a grassless patio with a few shrubs and can keep a watchful eye overlooking her favourite charity.

In time, I am sure that I will cross paths with others and maybe even write about them again.

Who IS the real Macoco?

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I unabashedly wear my heart on my sleeve with pride when it comes to opera.  I love it.

There is something about all the entanglements, drama, tragedies, betrayals, music, sets, the languages and how it all comes together that I enjoy.  I must admit there are some performances that I enjoy more than others – but that is to be expected.  I have been looking forward to this first Opera in the Village since last summer when I first heard about it when I was out for a walk with a neighbour.  We happened upon a live operatic performance on the RiverWalk where it was mentioned this new opera festival was planned this summer.  I have been interested since then.

Thursday, a friend from out of town was here on business.  After her meetings, we met up and had drinks on the patio in the sun at Diner Deluxe.  We then went for a walk along the river to attend the evening performance of Arias in the Afternoon in East Village.  While there we heard a well-put together hour-long, narrated collection of works from three separate operas.  It was interesting to see the performance, as many of them I had seen them on Stephen Avenue Mall during a lunch hour earlier this month promoting the Cowtown Opera Company.

Last night (Friday) I was excited to see the movie The Pirate, 1948 starring Judy Garland and Gene Kelly which was projected onto the side of the Simmon’s Building after the scheduled Gilbert and Sullivan performance of the Pirates of Penzance had ended. I had never seen the movie before, so was looking forward to it –especially since the music was written by the great American composer of musicals – Cole Porter (who wrote Kiss Me, Kate which was written the same year this movie was produced).

The night before, my friend and I talked to one of the volunteers and they suggested that we should bring a collapsible chair and I am glad that I did.

Like a good opera – this movie had its twists and turns in the plot.

Briefly the plot centred around a trio of people – the village girl, Manuela (played by Judy Garland); the town Mayor, Don Pedro (played by Walter Slezak) whom she is betrothed to marry; and a travelling circus actor, Serafin (played by Gene Kelly).  Manuela had a deep crush on the villainous and infamous pirate “Mack the Black” Macoco.  Both Don Pedro and Serafin at various times throughout the movie, make claims that each of them was the real Macoco.  To find out who is the real Macoco, like a good opera, one must wait to the end to find out.

Tonight the movie will be The Princess Bride, 1987 which has been described as a “classic fairy tale, with swordplay, giants, an evil prince, a beautiful princess, and yes, some kissing (as read by a kindly grandfather)” – based on William Goldman’s novel of the same name.  It stars Peter Falk as the narrator/grandfather; Robin Wright as Buttercup; Cary Elwes as Westley; and Chris Sarandon as Prince Humperdinck.  Like the movie last night there are parallels between the twists and turns of opera; and the central role of literature and the written word.  It should be a beautiful night to sit under the stars and watch a movie.

The performance starts at around 10:45pm, and I would suggest bringing a folding chair if possible, although there is some seating available.

My thanks to Calgary Opera for including this type of programming in the festival.  For a full list of programmes that are available during the remainder of the weekend visit http://www.calgaryopera.com/arghh