Riley Park to have public art

While the Water for Riley volunteer committee took summer vacation, Calgary’s public art policy stayed controversial. W4R followed the debate because the drinking fountain in Riley Park will be public art.

How to recognize public art

The simple test for deciding what is public art: did an artist create it? The drinking fountain is art because an artist designed it. It’ll be in a public space. Ergo; it’s public art.

The unique aspect of Water for Riley is that its designer is a student artist. Michelle Lazo was in her first year at ACAD when she submitted her winning design, Reflecting Blooms. She’s an emerging artist, with many successes already on her resume.

The artist had a vision

Michelle has a special connection to Riley Park, which the jury didn’t know when it selected her design. Michelle, in her acceptance speech, told the crowd that her father worked for Calgary’s Parks Department. “Dad worked there. Now my thumbprint will be there too.”

She grew up going to Riley Park and loved the flowers that inspired her design. She said all the experiences came together, and she felt like she’d come full circle.

“The idea of Reflecting Blooms is to create an area in Riley Park that provides not only a hydrating space but also to engage a whimsical interaction with the sculptures.  The major inspiration for the fountain derived from the beautiful floral beds of Senator Patrick Burns Rock Garden.”

Thanks to Dana for sharing this inspiration in her photos.

Floral gardens in Riley Park. Photo credit Dana,
Floral gardens Senator Patrick Burns garden. Photo credit Dana,

Taste in art is subjective

As a community-based, volunteer driven project, W4R welcomes opinions about the drinking fountain’s design. Some visitors to Riley Park will appreciate and love the winning design, and, obviously, some people won’t. We look forward to being part of the larger civic discussion.

Be part of Calgary’s public art legacy;
for Riley Park, for you, and for the future.

Donate to make this vision become reality. At the instructions to seller page, specify that your support is for Water for Riley project. The Parks Foundation issues tax receipts for donations greater than $10.00.

We invite everyone to participate as a volunteer organizer, fundraiser, donor, sponsor, or any other role. Call 403 862 1923 and leave your contact information.

Meanwhile, experts on public art comment on the controversy and one such opinion is reproduced below:

City can be a leader in investing in the arts
Published on: September 11, 2017

Calgary is becoming a world-class city, and art has to be part of our evolution, writes Aritha van Herk:

A part of me understands the perplexity of political candidates confronted with debates about culture, the arts, and how to value creative life here in Calgary. They are running for office, and they think about appealing to voters.

What does the average voter want? Employment, shelter, food, education. A safe city. A welcoming city. A city that can be called home, for home is where our loyalties lie. And in that equation, the arts might seem insignificant.

But there is the crux of Calgary’s future. In our current situation, we must find a way to make our home —this city — a magnet. We need people to come here, bringing their entrepreneurial talent, their intellectual wealth and their investment dollars, or we won’t get out of this rut fast.

Calgary is becoming a world-class city, and art has to be part of our evolution. We have a chance to woo the very best in the world, but we have to offer the best. If we are going to become a city where people choose to stay, enhancing our overall wealth, this is the moment to disrupt our old way of thinking, and step forward, with culture as our lodestone.

Art and culture are compasses of change, measurements of evolving economies and identities. Calgary’s character is historically both risk taking and resilient. As companies and talent adapt and innovate in these challenging times, they look to what a city can offer to collaborate with their own entrepreneurial creativity. With all that we have learned, we are positioned to become a city that leads.

Which is where culture and the arts come in. Why do we need the arts? Because they are the lifeblood of a city’s identity, the quintessential element that makes a place distinctive, a destination, a home. And we have a chance, right now, in these turbulent times, to attract the best and the brightest to bring their optimum talent, advantageous ideas and inventive designs.

Calgary is not now perceived as a competitive creative centre, which is a significant barrier to realizing our goals of a diversified and resilient economy. We must become known as a place of creative ferment, for citizens who encounter the vibrations of creative activity are better able to embrace challenge and change.

The arts contribute to our economy, often invisibly, but palpably. Every dollar invested in the arts returns almost double that amount directly and almost triple in tourism benefits. In Calgary, creative industries employ more than 50,000 citizens, and each year, more than 4,000 students in creative areas graduate with degrees from our world-class institutions.

Creativity is good; we can all agree on that. But a creative city is more than lip service. We need a bold vision for Calgary’s creative future, one that enables Calgary’s artists and arts organizations to lead nationally — and to generate the local jobs needed to retain and attract artistic talent.

Most galling of all is the fact that Edmonton’s arts grants per capita are twice as much as ours.

City hall has faltered in its chance to support the arts appropriately. But that can change: an annual investment equivalent to 0.7 per cent of the city’s budget will allow Calgary to position itself as a national leader in arts investment.

The job of artists is to create. The job of politicians is to govern. The two might seem far apart, but they have the same goal: to make this city a place where the best and the brightest come and stay.

In the upcoming civic election, voters need to remember that, and support candidates who plan to invest in our city’s future, and who know that the arts and culture are more than decoration.

Aritha van Herk is writing on behalf of Creative Calgary.