Iconic Canadian art hidden in YYC office lobby!

By Richard White, December 28, 2013

It always amazes me what you can find in downtown Calgary if you just explore a little bit - get off the beaten path.  A few weeks back I shared with you some artworks that I found in the lobby and hallways at Bow Valley College.  The place is a friggn public art gallery with art everywhere. Learn more at: Flaneuring Bow Valley College 

Another day I was flaneuring the east end of Stephen Avenue and while not off the beaten path there was the one of downtown's more successful public artworks - the larger than live famous five ladies.  Learn more at Famous 5 at Olympic Plaza

Today I had an appointment at Eight Avenue Place (EAP) and discovered paintings by Jack, Jack, Ray, Jean, Jean-Paul and Marcelle - all members of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.  It is not everyday you find in an office lobby with museum quality artworks. 

But then downtown Calgary is not your average downtown, with over 40 million square feet of office space, it is one of the top 10 downtowns for corporate headquarters in North America.  Every new office building has wonderful art in the lobby and on the plaza making the downtown a 40-block contemporary art gallery.  Learn More: "Downtown Calgary giant outdoor art gallery"

Someday someone is going to create an app that will be a self guided tour of YYC's Downtown Art gallery. 

Iconic Canadian Artists

In the meantime, EAP has created a brochure for six masterpiece contemporary artworks by iconic Canadian artists:

  • Jack Shadbolt
  • Ray Mead
  • Jean-Paul Riopelle
  • Jack Bush
  • Jean McEwen
  • Marcelle Ferron

While I have been critical of Calgary's downtown in the past for being too corporate, too conservative and too minimal in its urban design, EAP and others have certainly contributed to making our downtown more visually interesting with literally hundreds of artworks.  

EAP's Lobby Art & Design....

As you enter from Stephen Avenue you are immediately welcomed by Jack Shadbolt's, "Wild Grass Suite - Quintet" (1979).  I love the fact that you can grab a coffee next door and sit and enjoy the art.  

In this close-up of one of the panels you can see that the image looks as if was inspired by the Alberta prairie grasslands where they meet the foothills.  The piece has a wonderful sense of playfulness and certainly adds lots of warmth and colour to an other wise stark lobby.

The next piece you encounter is Ray Mead's "Totem" (1986) which hangs above the concierge desk. Again it adds lots of colour and have an aboriginal quality to them in the simple mark-making and flattened stylized images.  The title also suggest an affinity with First Nations sense of place. 

Tucked away in one of the three elevator lobbies is this unusual Jack Bush painting "New York 55" (1955).  Unusual in that most of us associate Bush with bright primary colours, yet this piece is mostly blacks, browns and pinks. The piece definitely conveys New York's sense of place as the world's leading skyscraper city with its collage of vertical blocks, interspersed with smaller marks for windows and swirls for window reflections. This is probably the most literal Bush piece I have ever seen and certainly is museum quality. 

Definitely a good choice for EAP as it is one of Canada's best skyscrapers.  Did you know that Downtown Calgary is built at the same density as Manhattan or Chicago? 

Any public art gallery in Canada would love to have this piece titled "Oliviers" by Jean-Paul Riopelle in their collection.  I wonder if the EAP tenants who pass by it everyday even realize that they get to enjoy a painting by one of Canada's iconic artists everyday.  While other office buildings in North America have modern art in their lobby; there are very few that have iconic works of art. 

Jean McEwan's "Le Climat Rouge" (1957) invites contemplation, I want to grab the bench that is underneath the painting and move it to the middle of the elevator lobby and just sit and study it.  

It is obvious that the six artworks have been carefully selected to complement each other with a focus on use of colour, brush and mark-making and abstracting from nature. 

Marcelle Ferron's "Chile" (1973) combines elements of Shadbolt, Mead, Riopelle, Bush and McEwan in her work.  

Signature Furniture 

EAP lobby also includes modern office furniture by Arne Jacobsen, Eero Saarinen and Florence Knoll.  The huge south facing two story atrium or winter garden would make a wonderful sculpture garden. While there are plans for a major piece of public art, it is most likely to go outside on 9th Avenue.  

Currently the lobby features numerous "ice bursts" suspended from the ceiling that add an element of surprise and elegance to the minimalism of the lobby design. 

The lobby offers dramatic views of Calgary southern sky.  

The lobby has several inviting areas to sit and linger each authentic modern furniture.  And yes over the holidays they had the TVs turned to the Shaw's burning fireplace. 

EAP's has one of the most dramatic office lobbies in Canada, perhaps North America.  

These "ice bursts" were created by Stephen Stefanou of Venue Arts.  Each point of the bursts is individually created by slowly pushing a metal rod through the heated plastic-like material, so each is unique. There are several "bursts" hanging from the ceiling  in the central lobby as well as the lobbies of the two towers. Flood lights are used to slowly change the colour of the bursts adding yet another element of surprise. 

While under construction EAP had over 20 reproductions of artworks by senior Calgary artists covering the construction hoarding along the side of the road.  It was literally a who's who of Calgary art. I have never seen this done before. 

On the second floor (+15 level) SQCommons has been operating a "pop-up" contemporary gallery both in the public areas and in a 6,000+ square foot future retail space.  The space has also been used for several special events including Burst Calgary. 

The unique design for Eight Avenue Place was inspired by the Canadian Rockies with their jagged, angular, shard-like peaks. The building's facade reflects Calgary's abundant sunshine at several different angles during the day and seasons creating an ever-changing facade. 

Last Word

Eight Avenue Place was designed by Pickard Chilton an international architectural firm based in New Haven, Connecticut and Gibbs Gage Architects from Calgary.  It was the first pre-certified LEED Platinum high-rise building in North Americia.  The first tower is 49 floors and the second tower which will be completed and occupied in 2014 is 40floors.  Combined they provide 1,800,000 square feet of office space on 89 floors. 

Kudos to AIMCo, SITQ and Matco the co-owners of EAP for their innovative use of art (both locally and nationally) to differentiate themselves from other major office complexes.  I can't wait to see the outdoor sculpture piece they will commission.

If you like this blog, you might like:

FFQing in Downtown's Udderly Art Pasture

Flaneuring Bow Valley College

The Famous Five at Olympic Plaza 

Readers' comments:

RW writes: Great article. Most of us, myself included might notice these things but do not tie it all together because we are on a mission aka meeting/lunch/deadline.  The thought of having art all around us sure gives another dimension to our corporate downtown. Keep up the increased pace of writing...I find your “investigative” sleuthing makes me re-think and re-examine my urban environment.  I sometimes find myself in a situation re-examining a streetscape or a public space and wonder how Richard might interpret the situation as compared to how I am seeing it. A recent example occurred when I was describing Stampede Trail  and the activities/signage and buzz we hope to create with a new entertainment district and thought back to your signage article and how you might view our approach (I think you will get excited).

GB writes: When I was a young man, I worked for Manulife and we operated Calgary House at 550-6th Avenue. The lobby has a full wall bronze of "Pan and the Three Graces". In 1972 I had a plaque put up describing the piece, but I think it is gone now. The amount of great public art in Calgary is amazing, but much of it is seldome seen or identified. Good for you for bringing some of it to our attention.

JB writes:Thank you! Viewing this blog this morning brought a burst of warmth into my office! All that lovely color! This definitely warrants a trip downtown.

Las Vegas: Neon Boneyard

By Richard White, 

I often wonder when developers and urban planners will wake up and see the light (pun intended), recognizing the importance of “lighting” in creating urban vitality - and I am not just talking about street lights.

When will they realize the bleakness of today’s city centers and urban streets is due in part to the absence of the colour, charm, playfulness and character that neon lights provided (day and night) to downtown hotels, restaurants, pubs, clubs, theatres, cinemas and retailers.

Show me a street full of neon and I will show you a street full of life.  Human beings are attracted to neon like moths to a light bulb.  

Downtown Decline

The heyday for most of North American cities’ downtown was in the early to mid 20th century.  It was a time when downtown streets were full of bright, flashing neon lights. 

Perhaps the best articulation of the importance of neon light to creating great street life was in the 1964 hit song “Downtown” in which Petula Clark belted, “Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty. How can you lose? The lights are much brighter there. You can forget all your troubles; forget all your cares.” 

 In retrospect, the mid ‘60s was also the beginning of the rise of minimalism urban design that shunned “ornamentation and decoration,” including neon signage.

Neon signs are works of art and function much like public art in creating a more visually engaging public realm that invites people to stop, look around and linger.  Cities around the world spending millions of dollars on public art each year that rarely captures the public’s imagination and is soon forgotten or ignored in the new minimalistic urban landscape.

Perhaps we should be encouraging developers to create signature neon signage that are “works of art” while at the same time help brand the building and add to are part of an engaging downtown wayfinding system.        

 

In my mind, the Boneyard Park is a must see Las Vegas attraction, way more interesting than The Strip.  It is much more authentic and offers an up close and personal look at one of the iconic artifacts of urban design - the neon sign. 

The link between folk art and neon art becomes more obvious the more you explore the Boneyard Park.

I am not sure which came first Disneyland or Vegas but there is a strong link between the two i.e. the sense of play, fun and fantasy. 

A perfect example of how neon signage was critical to the branding of hotels in Vegas. The sign immediately said "Fun" even without the lights on. 

Another example of branding and signage.  Love that the signage is large and easy to read. Too many downtown and suburban buildings today have small signage that is hidden away making it very difficult to find them.

The Boneyard is like a grave yard or junk yard; this just adds to the fun of exploring.  The juxtaposition of the different signs is wonderful. You also get the sense of how sculptural the signage is.  These truly are works of art. 

The Boneyard entrance is a wonderful mid-century modern building that is very inviting and memorable.

Freemont street recalls the main streets of many cities from the mid 20th century when the streets were indeed brighter and more fun visually than they are today.  

The Silver Slipper is fun day and night, male or female, young or old.  

Love the link between cartoons and neon characters.  

A good example of how neon signage can be used to add fun and colour to an otherwise ordinary streetscape. 

Lighting can also used to create a fun facade in the evening, which is even more important in winter cities like Calgary. 

Las Vegas’ Boneyard Park

Being in the Neon Boneyard Park (a two-acre oasis with over 150 historic neon signs) is like being in a museum’s storage room, with the “museum” being outdoors in the middle of the city. See artifacts in their raw state, not polished, lit up or presented in isolation on a pedestal. Here you see them randomly mixed together in junk-yard like fashion, yet they are still  wonderful works of art.

Las Vegas Signs Project has been restoring signs from the Boneyard Park and installing them along Las Vegas Boulevard in downtown Vegas since 1996. Several restored neon signs including the Horse and Rider from the Hacienda Hotel and the Silver Slipper can be enjoyed day and night by both pedestrians and those in vehicles. 

Access to the Boneyard is by guided tour only.  Our tour guide was very informed and informal, providing lots of information but allowing lots of freedom to explore on our own, take pictures and ask lots of questions. 

Guided tours are 7 days a week and reservations are recommended.  (Note: As tours can be cancelled due to inclement weather - especially wind storms - don’t wait until the last day of your Vegas vacation to visit).

The Neon Museum’s Visitor Center is the lobby of the old La Concha Motel Lobby designed by acclaimed architect Paul Revere Williams. It is like something right out of the Jetsons.  Built in 1961, it is an excellent example of the mid-century modern Atomic and Space Age design with its curvilinear arches.

See Appendix for history of neon.

The crowd gathers waiting for the Freemont Experience to begin.  

Age of LED

Today the most popular form of decorative lighting is LED light.  There are several reasons for this. While the initial price is almost the same as neon, once you have a neon sign there is no changing it, whereas LED lights can be updated as often as you like. 

Secondly and the biggest advantage of LED displays is that they use 5 to 10 times less power. Thirdly, neon tubes need their gases refilled periodically and the glass can break, while LED is maintenance-free. In addition, LED lights are brighter and can be seen from further away and even in daylight. 

Arguably, the best use of LED lighting is also in Vegas – The Freemont Experience, which began in 1995. Today, a 1,500 foot-long canopy (three football fields) covers Freemont Street in old downtown Vegas. It acts as a movie screen.  The canopy has 12.5 million LED lights, which when combined with 180 strobe lights and 8 robotic mirrors on each block plus a sophisticated computer system, can generate 16.7 million colour combinations. 

Combine this with the 555,000 watt sound system and you get an amazing light and sound show that attracts, on average, 25,000 people per night for the Freemont Experience.

While I realize not every downtown can afford this kind of nightly entertainment, more downtowns should seriously look at how sound and light shows can be part of their quest for 18/7 vitality. 

Another good example of use of LED lighting to enhance downtown vitality is “Crown Fountain” at Chicago’s Millennium Park.  Learn more: Putting the public in public art.

 

The Freemont Street canopy is washed with colour as thousands of people mill about waiting for the show to begin.  

Let the show begin...the canopy becomes a huge video screen for spectacular light and sound show.

Even at night the Crown Fountain attracts hundreds of people of all ages and backgrounds to play and interact with the LED faces and the wading pool. 

Take away idea

Downtowns need to focus more, or as much on becoming entertainment districts as business districts.

They need to become a place where people, “Linger on the sidewalk. Where the neon signs and LED lights are pretty. The lights must be much brighter there, so you can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares.”   

If you like this blog, you might like:

Downtowns need to be fun

Putting the public back into public art

Cruising in Chicago

The curse of minimalism

 

 

 

 

 

Neon History (excerpts from www.neonlab.com)

Over the last 150 years, the luminous tube industry has evolved from the simple laboratory experiments in the second half of the 19th century to an industry of world-wide proportions.

In the late 1800s, scientists developed reliable and somewhat safe high voltage supplies and began running high voltages through many things to observe what would happen. Often, they tested to see how wide of an air gap the spark could jump. It was discovered the spark gap was inversely proportional to the pressure of the air and that an evacuated glass tube was the ideal method for viewing light from gas discharges.

After British researcher William Ramsey discovered the five rare gases between 1894-1898 (receiving the Nobel Prize in 1904), it then became possible for French scientist, Georges Claude, to figure out that these gases could be made to produce light discharges when electrical discharges were passed through them. Finally, the long desired method that scientists had been looking for - a form of practical lighting by glowworm or phosphorescent light which emitted “light without heat.”

By World War l, Claude had acquired many patents, but he had more on his mind than strictly scientific knowledge. He envisioned a lucrative market for his tubes in lighting and signage. Because neon gas produced the brightest light, it was used almost exclusively and soon the generic “Neon Sign” was born. By 1924, “Claude Neon” franchises appeared in 14 major cities across the United States. And by 1927, 611 out of a total of 750 neon signs in New York City had been made by Claude Neon Lights, Inc.

A great period of creativity for neon took place in the years that followed, a period when many design and animation techniques were developed. Unfortunately, the economic conditions caused by the Depression slowed neon’s growth. However, one place neon continued to work its magic during this period was on the exteriors of movie palaces, providing a colorfully glowing invitation to the fantasy world within.

Then following World War ll and the advent of plastics, manufacturers began promoting Plexiglas shadow boxes with fluorescent lighting, neon’s cousin, behind lettering and graphics. Neon, by then considered old fashioned, was relegated to use as a hidden light source. Still today, 75% of neon is used in this way.

During the last decade, neon has seen a rebirth, as artists, architects and interior designers have begun to rediscover its exciting possibilities. Neon tube construction hasn’t changed much since the days of Claude Neon. It’s still a handcrafted medium where a glassbender heats and forms each letter, one bend at a time. However, state-of-the art components and much-improved equipment make the neon tube of today superior to its predecessor.

 

Free Trip To New York City (well almost)

By Richard White, September 14, 2013

This week I got a free trip to NYC (well, almost) via the September 8th edition of the New York Sunday Times.  I am not a regular reader, but one of the bonuses of dog and house sitting this week is the home delivery of the NYT Sunday edition.   There was an extra dividend this week as it was the Arts & Leisure’s “The New Season” edition with three full sections featuring all the arts activities happening this fall in the Big Apple.  For me, it was a reminder of the incredible depth of NYC’s cultural scene.

It was also a trip down memory lane and my three trips so far to NYC. Once in the ‘80s as an emerging visual artist (to study the graffiti and street art), once in the ‘90s as a contemporary art gallery curator (to study the gallery/museum scene) and once in the ‘00s as a downtown manager (to research urban vitality initiatives). Seems like I am due for another visit soon.

 

Swann Galleries' full page ad immediately captured my eye.   I am a sucker for lush passionate colours. Sorry the pics don't do justice to the actual ads. 

Bigger is better!

Perusing the pages of NYT’s “The New Season” was like flaneuring the streets of the city - new surprises with every turn of the page.  In the “Art, Pop Music, TV & Video Game” section, my memory cells were excited by the Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary 1926 to 1938 exhibition at MoMA.  My mind recalled the images I had seen in numerous exhibition visits. Turn the page and there was Braque and Burtynsky causing more memory cells to fire. 

My imagination was captured on the next page with the word “The Power of Poison,” an exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History.  This was followed by image of a Leger from an exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, a reminder me of another trip. 

The Swann Auction Galleries’ full-page colour ad for its fall auction scheduled featured as wonderful Alfred Maurer “Fauve Nude” image suitable for framing.  Flaneuring a few more pages, I came upon a wonderful full-page colourful Chagall image, for The Jewish Museum’s “Love, War, and Exile” exhibition. 

Who needs a gallery gift shop when you have the full-page colour ads in the NYT? The section was full of fun factoids too – who knew that Grand Rapids, Michigan was hosting ARTPRIZE this fall with $560,000 in total prize money? 

The Movie section featured “20 to Watch” which, as you would expect highlights 20 young filmmakers from around the world.  As I don’t even go to 20 movies a year, this could easily be a DIY Film Festival for someone like me.  There is at least a week’s worth of reading in this section alone.

 

This is the image from the full page ad for the Chagall exhibition at the Jewish Museum. With a bit of flattening this would make a great poster, the colours were as rich as those of his artwork. 

 

WFG

The “Theatre, Dance, Classical” section quickly sparked memories of an off off Broadway production of Samuel Beckett’s “No Exit” that will forever be etched in my memory as one of my top ten lifetime cultural experiences.  It is not surprising that my attention was quickly captured by the double bill - “No Man’s Land” (Harold Pinter) and Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting For Godot” - that you could see on the same day at the same theatre both produced in the historic Cort Theatre by Sean Mathias.

The existentialist in me was also intrigued by how Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” would be interpreted as a modern dance piece.  The old memory cells were working overtime now remembering my front row seat at Lincoln Centre watching Baryshnikov leaping in his prime (I have never gone to a ballet performance again, as that was truly the quintessential ballet experience for my lifetime). 

 

Image for The Metamorphosis ballet by the Royal Ballet reminded my of one of my yoga classes.  Seriously this capture my imagination immediately as I flaneured the paper. 

The city never sleeps…

I remember reading somewhere that there are 60,000 professional dancers living and working in Manhattan; for most cities this number would be their entire downtown working population.  No wonder NYC is “the city that never sleeps.” I expect 250,000 or more people who work every night in the entertainment industry have a work day which ends at 10 or 11 pm, meaning happy hour is at midnight, dinner is at 1 am and heading home happens in the early morning hours just as the bankers and brokers are heading into work.   Another factoid tells me there is a  “New Trumpet Music” festival. Who knew?

For me reading the NYT’s Sunday edition is like a free (well almost, it cost about $5/wk for the Sunday Times subscription) trip to NYC.

 

I have never been to the Armory Show.  Maybe I will have to plan my next trip to NYC around this exhibition.  But I know any time is a good time to visit NYC.  

Rise of public art Decline of public galleries

Got my Gallerieswest summer ‘13 magazine in the mail this week – a good read as always.  Jeffrey Spalding's column, "In My Opinion" always interests me as he has great insights and insider information.  However, this one lacked the positive insights that usually characterize his rants.  His laments about the lack of support for public art galleries in Calgary and Canada.  This is not a new cry as public art galleries and museums in Calgary have struggled for over 25 years.  The Glenbow has never been in a strong financial position, which Spalding knows all too well as he served as the President & CEO from December 2007 to January 2009.  

The Art Gallery of Calgary too has struggled ever since they moved from the Memorial Park Library to their own building on Stephen Avenue.  The Triangle Gallery now MOCA Calgary has struggled to find its place in the visual arts community for over 20 years.  And the Illingsworth Kerr Gallery at ACAD or Nickle Galleries at the University of Calgary have never captured the public's imagination. The idea of a true civic art gallery in Calgary has been debated to death for over 50 years and still nothing.  

Spalding’s position is "if you want vital public art museums, then the public has to pay for them, period."  The corollary of this statement would be "if the public doesn't want to pay for them, why do we have so many public or quasi public art galleries?”  Do we need a new model for public art galleries?  Do we have too many public galleries? Does Calgary really need the Glenbow, Art Gallery of Calgary, MOCA Calgary, Illingsworth Kerr and Nickle Galleries? 

n opening night at the Esker Foundation Gallery.  Interesting to note that for most visitors it is a quick look at the art and then stand around and chat.  The gallery experience is 30 minutes at best for most people. 

One has to wonder why an individual visual arts patron decided to build and operate the Esker Foundation Gallery on his own dollar, rather than support and an existing public art gallery? Opened in June 2012, it’s one of the largest privately funded non-commercial gallery in Canada.

Perhaps it is time to face the reality that the visual arts appeal only to a small fraction of the population. As a former Director/Curator of a public art gallery and a modest art collector, I know I don't go to the galleries as often as I should.  And when I do go, it is often is a 30-minute experience at best.

Fact is, there is a glut of art on the market and for many people; there is no urgent need to go to galleries to see art. If you miss one show, there is another one coming on its heels. Or for some, there’s the Internet, not like seeing the real thing, but for some it is “good enough.”

Calgary is a culture of recreation, not arts. That is not to say we don’t have some great theatre, music venues and festivals, or that we shouldn’t continue to foster our arts groups. However, what does it say when the city is building four recreation centers with a total price tag of $450 million, yet we struggle to raise $138 million for the National Music Centre.  The City has also recently initiated a $25 million bike-friendly program and Calgarians are much more likely to spend $2,000 on a new bike than on a work of art. What does that tell us about Calgarians and their support for public art galleries?

Calgary is home to perhaps North America's largest retail bike shop - Bow Cycle in beautiful downtown Bowness. 

While public art galleries are struggling to survive in Calgary, public art seems to be on the rise in Calgary.  Over the past 10 years, we have seen numerous new public art works installed throughout the city, including the very popular "Wonderland" by Jaume Plensa on the plaza in front of the Bow office tower.  The Downtown has over the years become an art museum without walls - public art can be found on almost every corner and in the lobby of most office buildings.  Even condo developers are adding public art as part of their amenities (e.g. MARK on 10th will have Calgary’s first Douglas Coupland artwork.)  

Rendering of lobby of MARK on 10th condo with the Douglas Coupland artwork which will be visible to pedestrians on the sidewalk.

The City of Calgary has initiated a 1% for public art program (i.e. 1% of construction cost of all city capital projects must be set aside for public art) which means LRT Stations, overpasses and all City projects have public art included as part of their design.  Over the past 10 years, the City has invested $12 million in public art and there is already $16 million in the hopper for future projects.  It could also be argued that the City has invested $50 million in two pedestrian bridges (Peace and St. Patrick's Island bridges), both of which are works of art.  

And back in 2000, Calgary hosted one of the most successful public art projects in Canada - Colourful Cows for Calgary.  That summer, over 100 cows grazed in the downtown and other public spaces attracting thousands of Calgarians, as well as visiting family and friends downtown every weekend to see the wild, wacky and weird bovines.  

In 2010, another public art project captivated Calgarians when artists floated 500 multi-coloured orbs down the Bow River and created “River of Light” as one of six temporary projects celebrating the Bow River.  Over 10,000 people lined the river that night to watch.Riv

iver of Light project in 2010, attracted over 10,000 people to watch 500 orbs float down the river.  It was magical!  

More recent a group of local artists transformed eight homes (that were about to be knocked down for a new development) into works of art. Wreck City attracted over 8,000 people to visit the temporary public art project in just one week.  That would probably be more than the all of the other public and quasi-public art galleries in the city combined.

Perhaps it is time to face reality! Times have changed it is no longer the early to mid-20th century which was the heyday for public art galleries and museums. In Calgary, and more and more other Canadian cities, the public-at-large just isn't into public art galleries. 

An example of the public art that can be found on almost every block of the downtown core and in many cases two or three.  The lobbies of the office buildings are full of art, making the downtown a public art gallery without walls.

Comments: 

I enjoy your continued focus on the clash between reality and ideology when we consider all the elements of city building. If people aren't engaging at length with public galleries, do we reconsider the intent or push forth with a dated concept? Love it!

J.G. May 10

"New rec centres in NW and SE will have art galleries, studios for residencies, and 300 seat purpose built theatres" T. R.  May 9

RESPONSE: This is true, however this could be more evidence that Calgarians are more interested in recreational arts than the traditional academic approach to arts and culture, which is what Spalding is looking to create. Both are good and add value to community. Everyday Tourist 

 

Calgary: History Capital of Canada

Calgary is the history capital of Canada.  I know you think I am crazy, but read on and you may change your mind. Or maybe at least think of me as a little less crazy than you thought at first. And, hopefully, you with think of Calgary in an entirely new light!

Sure, Winnipeg has the impressive new Human Rights Museum and the historic Exchange District. Toronto has the Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario with their history collections. And yes, Ottawa has the National Gallery, Museum of Civilization and War Museum.  Montreal has its Old Town and Vancouver Gastown. However, I think after you read my top 10 reasons for saying Calgary is the history capital of Canada you will have a different perspective on Calgary! 

#10  Harry The Historian  

Did you know that Calgary has its own official Historian Laureate in 2012 - Harry M. Sanders? Sanders is a wealth of knowledge tweeting some historical fact about the city's past everyday to followers and giving talks and tours.  A story I love is about a quiet street in Calgary's south downtown Beltline community with an unassuming Tudor Revival house that today is the Laurier Lounge.  Built in 1908, the house was the birthplace of George Stanley, designer of the Canadian Flag.  He would also tell you that Sir Wilfred Laurier was the Prime Minister who, in 1905, oversaw Alberta's entry into Confederation as a province.  Oh, and he might even tell you the poutine at the Laurier Lounge is tasty. 

#9  Atlantic Avenue: The Original Main Street

Did you know that Calgary has two historic “main” streets? The original Main Street is on the east side of the Elbow River. Still intact with its many two story brick turn-of-the-century buildings it is now called 9th Avenue SE (formerly Atlantic Avenue, it was the main street for a struggling frontier town). There are still two old barns standing on two different side streets. Today, this Inglewood community street is one of the coolest BoBo (bohemian / bourgeois) streets in Canada with a great mix of retail, restaurants, pubs and music venues.  Atlantic Avenue was a pilot project for Heritage Canada's Urban Historic Area Demonstration project and also a signature project for the Alberta Main Street Programme. These programs helped fund the refurbishment of the heritage buildings in the ‘90s. 

#8  Stephen Avenue: The Current Main Street 

Calgary's other “main street” is Stephen Avenue Walk (or 8th Avenue Pedestrian Mall).  It links Calgary's Cultural District to its Financial and Shopping Districts.  The three blocks from Centre Street to 2nd Street SW have been recognized by the Federal government as a National Historic District for the number and quality of preserved turn-of-the-century buildings.  The street is named after Lord Mount Stephen, the first president of the Canadian Pacific Railway.  At one time, all of the downtown streets and avenues had names of CPR railway executives and its real estate subsidiary, the Canada Northwest Land Company, which subdivided the Calgary townsite in 1884.

#7  Royal Canadian Pacific Vintage Trains

Speaking of trains (and so we should given they are integral to the city’s history), bet you didn't know that Calgary is home to one of the world's best collection of vintage train cars (1916 to 1931).  And yes, you can even book a tour through the Rocky Mountain on The Royal Canadian Pacific train pulled by first generation diesel locomotives.  Not only do you get to enjoy the majesty of the Rocky Mountains, but you might be sitting in the seat as Princess Elizabeth who road one of the vintage cars shortly before her coronation, or maybe the same seat of Sir Winston Churchill. These vintage rail cars ooze history.  The vintage train cars are housed in a special shed located right downtown, along with the CPR Pavilion, which is a 12-meter high glass rotunda with marble floors attached to the historic Fairmont Palliser Hotel for special events. 

#6  Fort Calgary

On the eastern edge of downtown is Fort Calgary, originally built in 1875 by the North West Mounted Police and originally named Fort Brisebois, but quickly changed to Fort Calgary.   The original palisade and barracks building have been reconstructed to create exhibition areas, theatre and gift shop.   Plans for an ambitious expansion have been approved and fundraising is underway.

Just across the Elbow River from the Fort is the Deane House. Built in 1906 for the Superintendent of Fort Calgary, Captain Richard Dean, it has had several lives, including a boarding house, an art gallery and today a restaurant.  It too is a designated Registered Historic Resource.

#6  Sandstone City 

After the fire in 1886, Calgary turned to the local Paskapoo Sandstone, as the material of choice for its new buildings. As a result, Calgary has numerous outstanding sandstone buildings including Alberta's first library (the Memorial Park Library, in historic Memorial Park), numerous old schools including the 1884 Haultain School (currently home to the Parks Foundation Calgary) and 1908 McDougall School (the Southern Alberta Governments offices) and the elegant 1911 City Hall with its 70 foot central clock tower (still home to Mayor and Alderman).  

Interesting to note there is still one wood building that predates the fire. Built in 1885, originally known at the T.C. Power & Bros. Block, today it is best know as The Pain Block on Stephen Avenue. It gets it name from Pain Furriers who occupied the building from 1935 to 1965.  Who says Calgary doesn’t preserve its history?

#5  Canadian Sports Hall of Fame

Calgary houses many of Canada's most interesting sports artifacts at the new Canadian Sports Hall of Fame. Gallery exhibits have cleverly been organized into the following categories: Ride Gallery, Motion Gallery, Contact Gallery, Bounce Gallery, Hockey Gallery, Glide Gallery, Blade Gallery, Olympic and Paralympic Gallery, Locker Room and Media Room. They’re also several interactive exhibitions: Be A Sports Journalist, Be A Broadcaster, Ask The Athlete and Hero Station. Since 1955 Canada's Sports Hall of Fame has been collecting sports memorabilia from all aspects of Canadian sports history including Terry Fox's iconic single running shoe. The collection currently stands at 95,000 artifacts and continues to grow.  

#4 Heritage Park 

Calgary is home to Canada's largest living history park-Heritage Park!  The Park encompasses 127 acres and includes four distinct areas: Western Canadian history (circa 1864), Pre-Railway Village (circa 1880), Railway Prairie Town (circa 1910) and Heritage Town Square (circa 1930) to 1950.  It also includes Gasoline Alley with is extensive collection of antique vehicles a 1950s service station and retro drive in movie theatre.  There is also not only a steam train ride from the parking lot to the entry gate, but once inside, you can take a ride on the S.S. Moyie paddle wheel boat on the Glenmore Reservoir.   

#3  National Music Centre 

The National Music Centre (NMC) boasts one of the world's largest collection of keyboard instruments, 400 in total.  Furhermore, NMC has over 2,000 artifacts including Elton John's songwriting piano (which he used to compose his first five albums) and the Rolling Stone's 1968 Mobile Studio, which has also been used by the likes of Led Zeppelin and Bob Marley.  The oldest artifact is a 1560 Virginal, a keyboard instrument that predates the piano.  The collection will soon be housed soon in the new iconic, purpose-built National Music Centre building currently under construction.    

#2  History Museums / Parks / Plazas

The Glenbow Museum, founded by Eric Harvie, a Calgary petroleum entrepreneur, is one of the largest museums in Canada.  In its possession are over one million artifacts and 28,000 works of art.  Its extensive collection includes historical artifacts and art from Western Canadian, as well as Asia, West Africa, South America and the various islands of the Pacific. 

Calgary is also home to the Military Museums of Calgary, the second largest war museum in the country.  Its four galleries showcase an extensive collection of material from all three branches of the Canadian Armed Forces (Navy, Army and Air Force) and an extensive library housed at the University of Calgary.

In addition, Calgary is home to the 100+ year old Memorial Park with its numerous monuments to different wars Canadians have fought in.  And, Calgary's Memorial Drive is also dedicated to Canada's military history with its Memorial Plaza, trees and monuments.

#1  The Calgary Stampede

Calgary is home to Canada's oldest agricultural fair, one that has evolved over the past 101 years into Canada's biggest Canadian cultural festival. The Stampede annually celebrates our First Nations culture, our agricultural culture, our music culture, our youth culture, as well as two unique prairie sports cultures - rodeo competition and chuckwagon races. 

The Stampede is not an imported myth from the U.S. frontier, but started as a tribute to the authentic ranching culture of Southern Alberta and continues to celebrate that culture today.  The Ranchmen's Club established in downtown Calgary in 1892 and still operating in its historic Renaissance Revival building is evidence of the City's long history as ranching agricultural centre.

Last Word 

YES, little old Cowtown, often cited as having no history and just a bunch of corporate cowboys, offers up a lot more local and Canadian history than you think.   Next time you are in town, stay awhile and enjoy our western hospitality.  

AND, if these “top ten” aren’t enough to convince you…how about a bonus reason!

#11 Honouring Its First Nations History Everyday

In Calgary, the names of most major roads are linked to celebrating our First Nations neighbours and their leaders, with names like Sarcee and Blackfoot recognizing nations and Deerfoot and Crowchild being leaders. In addition, these roads are not called highways or freeways, but Trails a further “nod” to our historical routes - Edmonton Trail follows the original trail from Calgary to Edmonton and Macleod Trail the route south to Fort Macleod.

Still not convinced? Need another factoid?

#12 Calgary Celebrates its Prairie Town Roots Everyday

In what other major city in Canada - maybe in the world - do cars stop and let pedestrians cross the roads at unmarked intersections mid-block.  Yes, in true prairie small town tradition, in Calgary if you stand at the edge of the sidewalk, cars stop and let you cross; just like they did when cars were first introduced and pedestrians had the right-of-way100 years ago.  

I stand by my claim: Calgary is the history capital of Canada.

Laurier Lounge which was  George Stanley's the designer of the Canadian Flag's home. 

Atlantic Avenue, Main Street Inglewood was Calgary's original Main Street before the Canadian Pacific Railway arrived.

Downtown Calgary's signature Hudson Bay department store on Stephen Avenue aka Main Street.  

Glass Rotundra that links historic Fairmont Palliser Hotel to vintage train shed in downtown Calgary.

Fort Calgary baracks building on the eastern edge of downtown Calgary. 

Sandstone City - Calgary's historic city hall is still home to the Mayor and Aldermen's offices. 

The Sports Hall of Fame located at Canada Olympic Park has an incredibly diverse collection of artifacts from hockey to rowing, from figure skating to lacrosse.  There are many hands-on activities and a captivating movies about Canada's sports history.  (photo courtesy of Canadian Sports Hall of Fame)

Heritage Park Canada's largest living history museum. (photo courtesy of Heritage Park)

The National Music Centre's oldest keyboard instrument a Virginal from 1560 - it predates the piano.  photo courtesy of the National Music Centre. 

Glenbow Museum one of North America's finest museums and the largest in Western Canada. 

Every Remembrance Day in Calgary along Memorial Drive. Other Remembrance Day ceremonies take place at Memorial Park and Military Museums.

The Indian Village has been an important part of Stampede since the very beginning. And, I am told that they like the name "Indian" village and don't want it changed to aboriginal or first nation. A new location for the village is in the works along the Elbow River as part of the new Stampede Park master plan for the 21st century. 

Aerial photo of the Calgary Stampede with all of its colour and pageantry. Truly one of the greatest festivals in the world appealing to people of all ages and backgrounds. (photo courtesy of the Calgary Stampede).

Memorial / Central Park early 20th century postcard.  Park has been updated but still looks very much like this today.

First Baptist Church at corner of 13th Ave and 4th Street. 13th Ave is wonderful Heritage Trail with Calgary's first school, Alberta's first library, Lougheed House and Gardens and Ranchmen's Club all from the late 19th early 20th centuries. The area is rich with history. 

Wreck City: The Experience of Experimentation

As a recent transplant to Calgary, I’m constantly absorbing, searching and learning, about the city, its offerings and its character. I came here with a blank slate, no expectations (having never been here before) or real understanding of the city's identity. Specifically seeking to understand cultural identity, as a creative worker, I tried to piece together some pillars – the larger art institutions, the creative spaces, the galleries and those making it happen. What is harder to tap into is the essence of the cultural experience in a city – the organic, the happenstance, and the interventions that create a positive, vibrant, rich environment.

Thus, I was excited to visit Wreck City: An Epilogue for 809 – the recent public art installation happening in response to nine houses, including beloved garage gallery 809, set for demolition. With 8 curators (Matthew Mark Bourree, Caitlind r.c. Brown, Jennifer Crighton, Brandon Dalmer, Andrew Frosst, John Frosst, Shawn Mankowske, and Ryan Scott.) inviting over 100 artists to participate, this project was something I had not experienced the likes of before, in my  years of passionate exploration of public art. Some works were responsive to the architectural elements of the house, others were about playful interaction with the four walls, while some touched on the past, previous residents and the lives they lived. 

One of the many notes left by the over 8,000 visitors to Wreck City. Illustrates the importance of engagement in public art.

I felt a genuine joy when swinging on a swing, crossing a wooden footbridge linked between two houses, or lying on the floor to see a room created upside-down. I felt simultaneously sad and inspired coming across a wall of messages from “Wreck City” visitors. Their thoughts, reactions and emotions were revealing what Calgarians from all walks of life are thinking about their city. Comments ranged from -   'I feel like crying', 'More fun public art like Wreck City, unpretentious and accessible...', to  'Make it livable. Walk, bike, local markets not big box', 'There is beauty in destruction'.

Though some spaces and works were more successful than others, it was the overall experience of this project that was invigorating, and we need more of it, not just in Calgary, but in many North American cities. We have not left enough room for active culture – continuous, organic happenings that grow naturally as part of our city, or pop-up unexpectedly. Sometimes the best experiences or memories we have happen when we least expect them, when they surprise us, when our plans change and develop. It is similar with art – it needs room to breathe and grow. In our cities, we have over-planned and over-stipulated, placing value on a controlled outcome, rather than the process of creation. The intrigue, the provocation and the daring are replaced with the safe, the comfortable, and the inoffensive. We have created public art with an 'X' to mark the spot – it will fulfil this need, it will check that box, and poof: uninteresting public art.

The importance of experimentation is that it creates a sense of freedom and magic, and opens up the city. It demonstrates that creativity is valued, that all citizens have a voice in their city, and a desire to be a place that embraces fun, new energy, and a dose of self-criticality. Wreck City was an opportunity for people to see Calgary let its hair down, and trust a group of individuals to change the site as they wanted

Bridge by Alia Shahab

Whatever your opinion of the project, its great success was in its transitory, experimental nature. Turning the city into a lab for creativity is something that allows us to share experiences more democratically – with neighbors, residents, artists, business owners, friends and strangers- because there are no boundaries, and art is everywhere.

Wreck City was playful, provocative, and got people together, from all ages and backgrounds. Such experiences shows what our city looks like underneath, stripping away the boundaries (the gallery wall, the museum doors), the regulations and rules, and participating with others to experience fun, sadness, frustrations, together. 

Weaving by Suzen Green

Artist Jeremy Pavka

I think Calgarians are looking for more of these experiences, and want a city that is rich and diverse in interest. There is great power in the unexpected and allowing people to explore and form their own opinions. When we dictate the outcome of the artwork, we are telling people what they should know, how to experience. When there is no room for thought or interaction, it’s a one-way conversation.

Experiments in public space change how we view things and alter our expectations. An un-manufactured experience – raw and genuine- It asks us to be part of something greater, to share, and to learn.

___________________________________________

Everyday Art Tourist recently relocated to Calgary from the GTA and works in the creative sector. With over 7 years of experience in both Canada and the US, large museums, small non-profits, and government, Everyday Art Tourist’s focus is on public art and cultural policy. EAT will be a regular guest contributor to EverydayTourist. 

EverydayTourist note: I received the guest blog this week from a new Calgarian and thought it captured some to the ideas that I have been blogging about recently Calgary: North America’s Newest Design City and Alberta’s Dream and Wonderland public artworks.  I think the author correctly points out that most public art in Calgary doesn’t really capture the public’s imagination and is more or less ignored.  Perhaps it is because it is too contrived, too planned, and too safe and too soon becomes part of the urban landscape.  I believe “Wreck City” had over 8,000 people visit in just one week, the same week that Jaume Plensa’s Alberta’s Dream was installed downtown to almost no reaction.  It created a buzz and an urgency that rarely happen with public art. 

Look for more guest blogs from Everyday Art Tourist in the future.

Anchorage West Coast's Northern Urban Playground

A few years back we heard through the grape vine that friends who had moved away and we had kinda kept in touch with but not very regularly had a son getting married in Calgary.  We thought maybe some of the kids or family would like to stay at our house as we had lots of room.  Eventually it lead to a home swap - we'd go and stay at their house in Anchorage and they would have use of our house. 

Anchorage wasn't on our list of cities to visit but as "flaneurs" we are always open to new adventures.  So we quickly did our research and made our plans.  On of the first things we learned was that we couldn't be the "transit/pedestrian" tourist that we usually are as Anchorage doesn't have much of a transit system.  We had been told that before e.g. Vegas and yet against all advice we managed to score a locals transit pass and we had a great time off the beaten path in Vegas - but that's another blog.  

But yes we did decided to rent a car in Anchorage and we are glad we did.  Bonus - Avis Rent A Car didn't have the compact car we orders so we got a Mini Copper - Woo Hoo!  

Anchorage: West Coast's Northern Playground 

(except from story for Avenue Magazine) 

From urban playground to outdoor adventure park, Anchorage offer up many unique adventures. One such experience is that it’s one of the best places in North America to experience the dancing, shimmering colours of the aurora borealis starting in late August through to late winter.  Most hotels offer a “Northern Lights wake up call” so you don’t miss the spectacular free night show. Anchorage is a place that doesn’t sleep, at least in the summer - from late spring to early summer, plan for 20+ hours of daylight activities.  For high adventure, visit Anchorage in the winter with its 20 hours of dusk/darkness per day, relishing in everything from dog sledding, skiing and beer festivals.

Regardless of when you go, the best place to start your Anchorage adventure is the Anchorage Museum, which is actually six museums in one. To know Anchorage is to know the history and life of its people. The Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center, located in the elegant glistening new wing designed of the museum (designed by London’s David Chipperfield Architects) is an architectural gem offering a comprehensive collection of native artefacts and a wonderful listening space to hear captivating stories told by elders.

While there check out the Imaginarium Discovery Centre, a hands-on science centre which includes an earthquake experience (one of Anchorage’s signature events was the 1964 Good Friday earthquake which, at 9.2 on the Richter scale, was the strongest earthquake in North America’s history). If time allows, the Chugach Gallery offers majestic views of the mountains, the Alaskan Gallery covers 10,000 years of local history, while the Northern Galleries features contemporary art exhibitions. (anchoragemuseum.org)

Anchorage Museum is a must see and do.  The building itself and the lawn is lovely, but once inside it is a Science Centre, a history museum and a contemporary art gallery.  Every city should have one of these. There is also a wonderful cafe with great desserts.

Icebergs/Volcanoes Rails/Trails

Alaska Railroad’s ‘Glacier Discovery Train Rail and Float Tour’ is a “must do.” The first leg has you riding the rails along the scenic fjord of the Tunagain Arm, past the Petrified Forest near Portage Glacier to the town of Whitter to pick up cruise ship passengers. All aboard and it’s off to the middle of nowhere where a waiting school bus shuttles you an d the group along a bumpy bush road to Spencer Glacier. After a quick picnic lunch, you pile into 8-man rafts (the guide paddles) to float amongst the dozens of icebergs that have calved off the glacier. Because the icebergs are grounded in a shallow lake, you can float so close you can watch them melt. Reluctantly, you leave the bergs to float down the Placer River where the tranquility and silence is absolutely eerie – not a bird, not an insect – nothing. Existential! Truly a truly memorable day trip! Check out www.alaskarailroad.com for this and other great rail adventures.

Anchorage boasts over 650 kilometres of trails within its city limits. The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail is a very popular bike or hike for people of all ages and is easily accessible from downtown.  There are many interesting places to stop along the trail including the Beach (actually mudflats, so you have to be very careful) and Earthquake Park to see with your own eyes how the earthquake shelved off a huge swath of land. Also along the trail are views of two living volcanoes - Mt. Redoubt and Mt. Spurr. Coastal Trail Rentals (www.coastaltrailrentals.com) downtown offers mountain, comfort and tandem bikes for $15 to $25/ four hours.

Kincaid Park, a 1400-acre forest in the middle of Anchorage is home to over 1,000 moose – an encounter with a moose is almost guaranteed. It is great place for a leisurely walk, run or cycle. Bring a Frisbee and try out the Frisbee golf course.  Kincaid is also home to The Lekisch Loop. Lit for night skiing, it’s the hilliest, competition-certified 10K cross country skiing track in North America.

For hikers, Flattop Mountain (3,510ft) on the edge of the city is a “must do.” After sharing the first few kilometres with dog walkers, you venture out on your own for an easy climb to the top of Flattop Mountain for an amazing view of the Anchorage Bowl, Mt. Denali and the Aleutian Islands.  For the more adventurous, plan a day hike to Williwaw Lakes or Wolverine Peak.

Girdwood (45 minutes by car or 2.4 hours by train) is a community worth visiting. Take the Alyeska Tram for a bird’s eye view of the seven surrounding glaciers, or walk up the mountain to the observation deck and take the tram down. Hike Winner Creek or Crow Creek Trail to lush temperate rainforest in the summer or enjoy the downhill skiing in the winter. Pamper yourself at the luxurious Hotel Alyeska (www.alyeskaresort.com). 

Rafting amongst the ice bergs was one of my most memorable experiences. It was so silent, not birds, no bugs, the dripping of the ice - it was a surreal moment! 

Exploring by train is a wonderful way to get off the beaten path in Alaska. The train stops and picks up rafters and hikers along the way.  Too much fun!

Time to dine

Anchorage offers everything from contemporary to roadhouse dining, from bohemian cafes to decadent bakeries. It is also home to 10 microbreweries. For foodies, Anchorage doesn’t take a back seat to Portland, Seattle or Vancouver.   

Alaska born Guy Conley, nominated for the 2010 James Beard Award for best chef in the Northwest, offers his twist on contemporary Pacific Rim cuisine at downtown’s Ginger.  The grilled pork chop with raspberry chipotle glaze and pineapple fried rice is to die for and the ginger pear cheese cake with spiked caramel sauce will put a smile on your face.  (www.gingeralaska.com).

The Glacier Brewhouse is the iconic Anchorage restaurant and fun for all ages. The clam chowder is one of their signature dishes.  Their Big Woody Barleywine won the gold medal at San Francisco’s 2010 Toronado Barleywine Festival (glacierbrewhouse.com).

Muse at the Anchorage Museum offers a wonderful view of the museum’s plaza, while enjoying a late afternoon coffee and dessert fix. (www.marxcafe.com)

The best breakfast spot is Snow City Café (www.snowcitycafe.com). Popular with the backpack crowd it has a great vibe. Close to the several bike rental shops, it’s a good place for a hearty breakfast before hitting the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.

Downtown Anchorage has many great streetscapes with the best hanging baskets I have ever scene.  

Patio fun Anchorage style...note the outdoor pool table...live like a Rock Star...

Off The Beaten Path

The SNL District (Spenard Road and Northern Lights Boulevard), once the “red light district” of Anchorage, is now a funky bohemian area with its own farmers market (under the windmill), signature REI store (think MEC), as well as some quirky shops (e.g. Plato’s Closet) and great restaurants/cafes.   

Grab a brew at Kaladi Brothers Café, while browsing the Title Wave bookstore.  What started as an espresso cart on 4th Avenue downtown, Kaladi is now Alaska’s signature coffee house and even has a one location in Seattle, home of you know who! 

Absolutely don’t miss the Bear Tooth Theater Pub experience. It adds a whole new dimension to dinner and a movie.  This art-house cinema has a full-service kitchen featuring gourmet pizzas, as well as micro beers and wine.  Order your food, take your glow-in-the-dark numbered pylon and your food will find you! Every other row of theatre seats has been removed to allow for tables.  Book ahead and you can get your own booth. (www.bearstooththeatre.net)

If you are into blues, jazz or folk music, the Taproot offers a different genre every night (e.g. Sunday is “Down & Dirty Blues” and Wednesday is “Hodown Throwdown”). Check www.taprootalaska.com to see who’s on tap.  

The Native Health Centre is out of the downtown and not on most travellers radar,  but certainly worth a visit as it is full of artwork and artifacts and the architecture is interesting also. 

Market to Mall Shopping

The Downtown Market & Festival, with its 300 vendors selling food, clothing and crafts takes over several downtown surface parking lots each weekend. Attracting 15,000 people a day, there is a definite festive buzz.  It is a great way to spend a few hours mixing with locals.

Wandering 4th Avenue, Anchorage’s mid-century modern Main Street, with its numerous boutiques, galleries and shops, as well as the most dazzling hanging baskets and urban flowers beds, makes for a pleasant afternoon.  Be sure to stop in at William’s Antique Gallery (1001W 4th Ave) with its floor to ceiling collection of everything from Hudson Bay trading beads to four foot whale vertebrae and from artworks to antique firearms. It is a mini museum. (www.theantiquegallery.com)

Mainstream shoppers will enjoy the Fifth Avenue Mall with JC Penny and Nordstrom as its anchors.  Don’t miss the Alaskan Walking Shoe’s outlet store in the basement for great deals. 

Where to stay: Copper Whale Inn, in the heart of Downtown is one of the few buildings to survive the 1964 earthquake.

  • Susitna Place Bed & Breakfast is perched on a bluff overlooking Cook Inlet yet only a short walk to downtown.
  • Historic Ank Hotel is an elegantly restored 1916 hotel that is on the National Registry of Historic Places. 

Anchorage has a wonderful downtown outdoor market that is not to be missed - food, crafts and entertainment 

The Anchorage Airport is like a contemporary art gallery with amazing works of art. This mask exhibition using found objects was outstanding. 

In Anchorage don't be surprised if you see a mother and daughter wandering the streets both in the residential neighborhoods and in the parks. 

This photo was taken from the train on the way to rafting.  There is a community in the city limits that has a backyard airstrip...talk about fly-in fly-out!  

Travel Lesson Learned: Today, whenever we are going on holidays we tell our family and friends well in advance to see if they are interested in coming to Calgary and using our house for accommodations and vice versa.  Last summer my Mom was heading to Iceland for an adventure so went and visited her for a few days and then used her house in downtown Hamilton, Ontario as a base to explore Southern Ontario.  This is a good way to test if a "house sharing" experience might be for you.  

One of the many display areas at the Native Health Centre. This one is a collection of baskets from the various first nation communities in the area. Others have dolls and masks. Their is a sense of pride at the Centre for the artifacts as part of the people's history and it creates a wonderful sense of place.  Centre is a free museum.

I captured this image of someone walking past the Anchorage Museum. The facade of the museum is made of a reflective material that captures the people milling about the front lawn creating fun works of modern art. 

This is the front lawn or garden of the Anchorage Museum that creates an inviting entrance and is a clever link between the man-made museum and nature. 

The Little Blues Joints on the Prairies

By Richard White, April 3, 2013

NOTE: MEMPHIS BLUES FUNDRAISER: Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014, The Blues Can, noon till 5pm

TICKETS: $10 in advance at www.calgarybluesfest.com/store or $15 at the door

Double Header with TIM WILLIAMS and the MIKE CLARK BAND

CBMA congratulates Tim Williams and the Mike Clark Band, the top acts selected in the Solo/Duo and Band categories respectively, who will represent Southern Alberta at the International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis, Tennessee, Jan. 21 - 25, 2014.

YYC: Music City?

Quietly Calgary has been fostering the development of a diverse music scene from Saturday afternoon blues jams to international piano competitions.  It may not be the biggest or the best, but it is evolving into a very vibrant community.  So if you are looking for a music city to visit - Calgary is singing and playing! 

Perhaps it started way back in 1917 with the what is now the Kiwanis Music Festival, one of the largest amateur competitive classical music festivals in North America - 9.500 musicians ages 5 to 25 compete in 16 categories. This festival is held in March each year. 

Maybe the genesis was the 102 year old Mount Royal Conservatory which has evolved into one of the most respected music schools in Canada and internationally.  It will soon be home to the new Bella Concert Hall on the campus of Mt. Royal University.  

Piano Competition

The Honen's International Piano Competition has placed Calgary on the map for young emerging concert pianists from around the world wanting to launch their career.

But for me, it is the indie music venues and festivals that make living in Calgary a fun place to live and visit. Best bets this summer are Sled Island, June 19 to 22, 2013 and Calgary Folk Festival July 25 to 28, 2013.  

However, you can visit Calgary anytime as there is indie music happening in various venues everyday of the week. Read on to learn more.

 

 

 

It all started with the King Eddy an old hotel on the east end of the Downtown where blues singers travelling the circuit would stay and play.  It soon became the home of the blues in Calgary.  More recently it has fallen on hard times, but it will be rescued as part of the creation of the new National Music Centre. 

This is a rendering of the new National Music Centre currently under construction. It will be home to a renovated King Eddy as a performance venue, a museum that will house the second largest collection of keyboard instruments in the world, including Elton John's first piano. Recently, Gotye was artist in residence at the existing space experimenting with the different instruments. 

Calgary is home to several saturday afternoon jams - Blues Can, Ironwood and Mikey's Juke Joint are along the railway tracks in the City Centre. ote the jammers in this scene are two teenagers, brother and sister.  Calgary's music scene includes people of all ages and backgrounds which argues for a healthy future. 

One of Calgary's iconic music venues is the Ship & Anchor on the Red Mile on the southern edge of the City Centre.  It is home to a variety of genres of music. Recently it hosted a Stompin' Tom Connors tribute jam hosted by Tim Hus. 

olita's is an intimate room that has emerging singer songwriters every Sunday night.  Here Amy Thiessen plays with Russell Broom. It is also home to a very popular show Carly's Angels drag show. 

Sled Island is Calgary's answer to SXSW with over 250 bands at 30 venues, with comedy, film and art shows added to the mix.  Here is Calgary mayor Nenshi ( huge cultural champion) on the right introducing one of the acts.  Sled Island was started by Zak Pashak, then owner of music venue Broken City. One of his goals was to create an urban festival using multiple venues that would showcase Calgary's growing cultural programming. 

Tim Williams (background) has a regular Tuesday Blues gig at Mikey's Juke Joint.  He is a great storyteller as well as bluesman.  Here he is playing with Big  Dave Maclean who is in town from Winnipeg.  

Perhaps Calgary should brand itself as the "Little Blues Joint on the Prairies." 

venue, Calgary's leading lifestyle magazine recently identified Calgary's top 8 music venues as - Wine-Ohs, Broken City, Dicken's Pub, HiFi Club, Ironwood Stage & Grill, Mikey's Juke Joint & Eatery, The Palomino and The RePublik. 

Perhaps, I should let Tim have the last word on why Calgary is emerging as a new urban playground for musicians in North America.  Recently in an interview by Mike Bell, Calgary Herald music writer about his new CD launch and the Calgary music scene Tim said:

"despite the ebbs and flows over the years, the city is one that now has a pretty great infrastructure - including studios, venues and even labels....it's a pretty great place for even the blues to make a home."  

If you like this blog you might like these blogs:

Calgary: North America's newest music city

 

Tim Williams: Calgary's Adopted Bluesman

Beltline: North American's best hipster/GABEster Community

inks to websites listed in this blog:

Blues Can / Ironwood / Mikey's Juke Joint / WineOh's / Ship & Anchor