Let's talk about...Public Art


The discussion took place at one of the oldest buildings on Stampede Park, the Victorian Pavilion. It was built in 1919 as a judging and sales arena and stabling facilities for cattle. Throughout the years, the Pavilion was utilized in many ways, varying from accommodating 600 head of cattle in the adjacent barns, to hosting numerous agricultural events (including Calgary Stampede and 4-H), auctions, boxing and wrestling competitions. Between 1952 and 1989 a Canadian Wrestling promotion used the Pavilion for Stampede Wrestling, making it one the most memorable events. Many of the former promotion’s alumni became some of the most popular stars of the World Wrestling Federation.

Image: Jesus Martin Ruiz

Image: Jesus Martin Ruiz



Michelle Reid is the Cultural Landscape Lead with The City of Calgary. She conserves, manages and celebrates some of Calgary’s most significant historic landscapes, ranging from a formal Victorian garden, a turn of a century pleasure ground, a brutalist/expressionist landscape, as well as indigenous visioning, camp, and buffalo kill sites. Her work has been recognized at the local, provincial, and national level by landscape architecture, planning and heritage organizations. She is a member of CSLA, CIP, ICOMOS Canada, and the Alliance for the Preservation of Historic Landscapes.

Iman Bukhari is the founder and CEO of Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation, a non-profit millennial organization that focuses on creating cultural understanding about social and racial issues. She has worked on national campaigns, arts movements and educational projects that shed light on race-related issues, success, and solutions. Iman has a Master's in Multimedia Communications and has worked in the not-for-profit sector for 10+ years. Iman recently received the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation's 30 under 30 award.

Dan Jacobson is an Associate Professor and the director of the IMMERSE research group based in the Department of Geography at the University of Calgary. Specializing in providing accessibility to blind and vision impaired individuals, the research focuses upon how individuals understand, communicate and represent spatial environments. These are explored through multi-sensory computer interfaces that include sound and touch. He was the chair of the International Cartographic Association Commission on maps and graphics for the blind 2007-2011. Throughout, he has collaborated with blind pedestrians, cyclists…and sailors.

Alana Bartol is an artist from Halifax, who now resides in Calgary and teaches at Alberta College of Art+Design. Through performance, research-based, and community embedded practices, her site-responsive works propose walking and divination as ways of understanding across places, species, and bodies. Bartol’s work has been screened and presented across various galleries and institutions in Canada, including PlugIn Institute for Contemporary Art, Access Gallery, Art Gallery of Windsor and Group Intervention Vidéo, as well as in Romania, Germany, Mexico and the United States. Among some interesting projects that Alana has done is walk through the boundaries of the City of Calgary as well as the Orphan Well Adoption Agency (OWAA) that she founded in 2003. OWAA is dedicated to finding caretakers for orphan oil and gas wells in Alberta.

MODERATED BY:  Ciara Mckeown is a public art consultant and curator in Calgary. She’s the Public Art Curator for Edmonton Arts Council’s Jasper Avenue Streetscape project and she’s been working in the field of public art for over a decade. Ciara is an Executive member, Board of Directors of Public Art Dialogue, an international organization devoted to public art and an affiliate of the College Art Association, and was recently an Advisor with the Creative City Network of Canada to establish the country’s first national public art network. She has written for Public Art Review and Americans for the Arts. Her essay about the City of Calgary’s Watershed+ has just been published in the University of Calgary’s Institute for the Humanities Water in the West 2018 anthology.

image: Jesus Martin Ruiz

image: Jesus Martin Ruiz

Event Summary:

Councillor Woolley made an introduction to the issue of public art and the role it plays in citizens’ lives. Should public art be object- or time-based? Stationary or temporary? How does public art help us navigate through cities, and how can it enrich the experience of both citizens and new travellers?

Panelists agreed that to foster the conversation about public art and enhance its value to the city, we need to start engaging communities and local artists in the process of creating art and its maintenance. It is necessary that public art is associated with a specific neighbourhood or city, so it does not only serve as an art object that is complementary to the city’s surroundings, but also act as a location point in citizen’s mind map when traveling through the city. 

Further, panelists discussed the importance of making public art of both forms: accessible and ambiguous. Should art be easy to understand or be vague, which form will be more effective at stimulating the conversation and raising questions?


Continuing the Conversation:

Our book recommendation team selected Undermining by Lucy Lippard to accompany this talk. It can be found at Shelf Life Books . The author places her home state of New Mexico under a critical lens, starting from gravel pits and moving through themes such as fracking, land art, adobe buildings, and Indigenous land rights. The book touches on place and culture, considering many different viewpoints. It engages reader on a visual level through 200+ photographs that one can found in the book. 

Let’s continue to explore our relationship with public art in our neighbourhoods and speak with friends and neighbours we don’t yet know about the civic vision public art signifies. If you have an idea you’d like to share, reach out to us. If that idea might grow into an article, you can connect with the editors at FOLD.

If you picked up an “X marks the spot” at the event, please don’t forget to tag and send your spot to #publicartsite. This installation was produced by Sans façon.

Image: Jesus Martin Ruiz

Image: Jesus Martin Ruiz

Event Supporters:

Thanks to the support of the Calgary Stampede for helping to make this event possible. Also a shout out to Village Ice Cream

We’re powered by our individual and organizational members. Thanks to Kasian Architecture, HOK, International Avenue BIA, RNDSQR, Urban Systems and DIRTT. Without their support, we could do none of this work.

And hats off to the volunteers of d.talks who roll up their sleeves and make vision happen.