Flaneuring Bow Valley College

This past week I had some time between meetings downtown so I decided to start flaneuring to see what I might find.  It took only minutes to stumble upon Bow Valley College’s (BVC) new South Campus building, which I am embarrassed to say I had not visited. 

As soon as I opened the door the ambience changed with lots of students milling about - sitting around chatting, studying, reading on their computers, chatting on the phone or wandering the halls.  It definitely had the feel of a campus…very different from Calgary’s corporate world.  I also noticed the ethnic diversity of the students – it didn’t feel like downtown Calgary! 

As I had just come from the announcement of the design/build team for the new Central Library, who promised to create a people-gathering place, I couldn’t help but think GEC Architects and the BVC building committee has created a wonderful space where people of all ages and backgrounds fell comfortable hanging out.  There is even a Tim Horton’s on the ground level, which had a long line-up – love the street animation!

BVC students are surrounded by contemporary art where ever they go. 

Just one example of how all of the walls have been designed to accommodate art. 

What probably impressed me the most though was the art – it is everywhere.  And, I’m not just talking pretty pictures for decoration; this was serious art – Joanne Cardinal-Shubert, Ron Moppett and Colleen Phillipi and Maureen Enns.  Not sure why I was surprised, as the original North Campus building always had lots of interesting contemporary art, but somehow this seemed more impressive. 

As I continued to flaneur, down the hall, up the stairs, past the food court there was art in every nook and cranny.  I loved the fact that there were large didactic labels for each work with information on the artist and the art. It was also obvious that the art had been installed strategically to allow the viewer to make connections between the works. In one area there is a series of works by artists with First Nation heritage that make a very interesting mini-exhibition.

Joan Cardinal-Schubert drawing is just one of several pieces by major Calgary and Canadian artists. 

Painting by Richard Emery Duck Chief from the Blackfoot Nation of Siksika is just one of many pieces that celebrate the First Nation culture. The piece is titled "Spirt N Spirit." 

I was also intrigued by the light box sculpture in the main hall of the South Campus, which reaches up two floors. I later found out it is titled “Chromatic Light Column” and was commissioned by the AFA for the new Calgary Courthouse, but is now in BVC’s permanent collection (there must be a story there).  It was completely refurbished with the participation of the artist, Nicholas Roukes and is a great addition to the building’s impressive main hall. 

Given I have recently been advocating for more fun things in downtown, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention two Franz Spohn Gumball Mosaics, one of Mayor, Nenshi and one of Premier, Alison Redford have a place of prominence on the second floor.  And, yes these portraits are made from coloured gum balls – kind of pointillism gone wild!

The space definitely had the feel of public gallery, but was much more animated, which is a good thing. 

Franz Spohn's gum ball portrait of Mayor Nenshi captures the mayor's signature smile with the iconic Calgary Tower in the background.  There is a wonderful sense of optimism in this artwork that is at the root of Calgary's sense of place and BVC's place in that culture. 




A quick email to Carol Ryder, who I remembered has been involved in the “mega makeover” of BVC for years got me lots of information about the art and plans for the future.

The Art Committee was formed over four years ago to celebrate art and the importance of exposing BVC students, as well as the public to contemporary art and the statements it makes about time and place.  

The Committee Members include BVC Staff:  Sharon Carry (President, BVC), Val Hoey  (Associate Vice President College Advancement, BVC), James Holroyd (Artstream BVC), Charlene Tomlinson (Director, Ancillary and Facilities Services) and Tina Overwater (Stewardship Officer).

Public members are:  Daniel Doz (President ACAD), Margo Helper (Board Member AGA), Robin Murphy (artist and City of Calgary Public Art Consultant), Helen Zenith (artist and owner of NewZones Gallery), Kelly Jones (artist) and Carol Ryder - Founding Chair.

I also found out the Committee has hired, Katherine Ylitalo on contract as the Curator of the BVC Collection. Ah! That is why the art is hung so sensitively and that there are museum like labels. 

Currently, BVC has over 150 pieces of art installed on campus and will have more on display once the North Campus renovations are completed.  The art has been chosen from various public collections – Alberta Foundation For The Arts, City of Calgary’s Civic Collection, Museum of Contemporary Art MOCA and the BVC Collection. Several local collectors have also donated or loaned work like Paul Ziff, Ted Washington and Patrick Windle to name a few.  As well, artists have also donated works.  Obviously, it has been truly a community initiative. 

Yes those are gum balls! This is a close up of Premier Redford's smile.  


Yes you can donate!


Yes, BVC is in the final steps of a public art policy that will be used as a criteria and guideline for future donations and additions to the BVC Collection, both permanent and temporary.  

BVC welcomes individuals and corporations to donate art within their guidelines to the collection and tax receipts are issued for the professional appraised value of the artwork donated


Public Art Commission


I found out BVC is the planning stages of posting an RFP for a major art piece to grace the NE entrance to the College. It will serve as a gateway piece into East Village for those travelling east and into downtown for those travelling west.  

This is grand hall of the South Campus building which is a bee-hive of activity and serves as a wonderful public art gallery. 


Last words


In the May 2010 edition of BVC’s “The Current” (employee newsletter) I found the following quote from Hoey, “For many years, it has been the vision of our President Sharon Carry to create an art collection that replicates the mosaic and diversity of the College.” 

In the same article Ryder states, “Public art will energize our public spaces, arouse our thinking and transform the halls and walls of the College into a welcoming and beautiful environment that invites interaction. Public art can make students and faculty talk and ask questions. It adds calm to a hurried life and offers a sense of place and community.”

I think they have been very successful. This left me wondering; “Does Calgary really need a civic art gallery?” But that is a topic for another day.


If you like this blog you might like:

Calgary Civic Art Gallery: Do we dare to be different? 

Poppy Plaza Review

Olympic Plaza needs a mega makeover

Rise of Public Art / Fall of Public Galleries

Ron Moppett's "Moonlight"  is contemporary painting that fosters a sense of thought and contemplation which is perfect for a post-secondary campus.