Calgary's Bee Kingdom Red Hot Spring Studio Tour

Editor's note:

Thought I would repost this blog for the Bee Kingdom's Fall 2016 Open House November 12 and 13 at 427 22nd Ave NW from noon to 5 pm.  Everyone is welcome!
Bee Kingdom Open house


This weekend I got a chance to tour the studio of Calgary's Bee Kingdom Glass as it was their annual Christmas sale and open house.  You could get a great deal on original art by Calgary's hottest young visual artists -  everything from fun glass balls ($30) that would add some colour to any room over the winter, to fun, funky Scotch decanter and two glasses for $199.  There was something for everyone.

Everything is handmade in-house (sorry in-garage) and just to prove it the boys are giving very entertaining demos in the garage, which is actually their studio.   As a bonus, not only were they selling their work, but they are also giving demonstration on the magic they perform to make the art.  Trust me it is well worth the visit.

Personally, I love the little colourful, playful, cartoon, cherub-like figures that hang on the wall. Mine for only $450! Surprise your loved one(s) with an original work of art this Christmas. 

Coming off their successful Glenbow exhibition this past summer, the Bee Kingdom (Ryan Fairweather, Phillip Bandura and Tim Belliveau) are the young guns of Calgary’s visual arts community. 

Look out Dale Chihuly (the world’s leading glass artist) these guys are gunning for you.

For more information:

By Richard White, December 21, 2014

This is the living room picture window. How festive is this? 

You would never know that this mid-century house has been home for the Bee Kingdom for several years without the sign saying "Let's just call it beesiness?"

You would never know that this mid-century house has been home for the Bee Kingdom for several years without the sign saying "Let's just call it beesiness?"

The back deck has a table of seconds for sale. You can't have the multi-coloured one in the fore-ground - we bought it. All under $100.

Scotch decanter sets are one of their biggest sellers. For you traditionalists, not all of them have antlers.

Some hidden gems on a shelf in the garage. 

I love these little guys...

Bee Kingdom studio demo. They make it look so simple.  Don't you just love the shoes? 

A view from the back alley of shoppers milling about in the studio after the glass blowing demo.

Chihuly's lovely yellow glass sculptures amongst the plants in the Dessert Botanical Garden, in Phoenix. 

BVAS: Still Burning Exhibition

Calgary has a lot going for it. One thing that many may not realize – even those like us who love the visual arts – is the Burns Visual Arts Society (BVAS). Established in 1979, it is the oldest, continuously operating artists’ cooperative in Canada with a mandate focused solely on providing affordable working studio space to professional artists. 

The  current members are currently celebrating their 35th anniversary with a multi-media exhibition, “Still Burning,” at New Urban's PASSAGE, a contemporary art space in the off the beaten path Dominion Bridge Building in Ramsay (803-24 Avenue SE). Just opened today, the exhibition runs until January 15, 2015 and offers up an excellent full-colour catalogue with essays by curator Colleen Sharpe for just $20.  

Bev Tosh discussing her steel wire drawing "Tug of War."

Still Burning

The exhibition includes the work of 20 artists and includes everything from painting (including one which is best viewed while lying flat on the floor – not to worry - blankets and pillows provided) to a wonderful steel wire figure drawing by Bev Tosh.

For me, one of the highlights was Shona Rae’s “Barbie Beast Wall Sconces” that integrated a found small animal skull, bear fur, wood, lamp and sterling silver cast doll parts.  I loved the shamanistic good vs. evil playfulness of the piece, with one being black and the other white.  

I was also attracted to the late Elizabeth Clark’s eight-foot dress made out of copper pot scrubbers and wire with its humorous title, “Chore Girl.” Sharpe’s essay tells the haunting story of Clark, in 2008, writing on the studio’s white board “I just wanted to let you know I was here.” The following day, she passed away suddenly. 

Shona Rae's "Barbie Beast Wall Scones" 11" H x 18"W X 7"D.

Another view of "Barbie Beast Wall Sconces".

Elizabeth Clark, "Chore Girl" 100" x18" x10" copper pot scubbers and wire.

Close up of "Chore Girl."

Close up of "Chore Girl."

Brenda's Favourites

For Brenda, three works captured her imagination. Cecilia Gossen’s sculpture “Duet” which was inspired by the arches of the churches on a pilgrimage made by the artist to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. It appealed to Brenda's love of simplicity and shape.

Jane Packham’s assemblage “ICON II – Daniel’s REFUGE,” inspired by the Old Testament story of Daniel whose prophecies got him thrown in the lion’s den where God saved him from certain death, appealed to her fascination for and love of creating narrative vignettes using found objects.

It was also lust when it came to Kim Bruce’s piece which consisted of three floating book shelves, each crowded with a series of encaustic, paperback-sized books shaped into letters that spelled out three works - Knowledge Empowers Absolutely - the title of the piece. It made her “top three” because of her love of typography.

Cecilia Gossen, Duet, graphite and acrylic on MDG and plexiglas, 30"H x 24"W x 5" D.

Jaon Packman, " ICON II - Daniel's Refuge," mixed media assemblage, 55"H x 12.5"W x 6.25"D

Close up of "ICON II - Daniel's REFUGE."

Kim Bruce, "KNOWLEGE EMPOWERS ABSOLUTELY," encaustc on books, 48"Wx 33"H x 4"D

Close up of "EMPOWERS" shelf

BVAS History

BVAS was formed in February 1979 in Calgary by a group of artists who had studios in the Burns Building on Macleod Trail at 8th Avenue SW. Facing eviction due to the development of the entire block into the performing arts centre, the artists secured the upper floors of the Neilson Building (the first three floors were built in 1903 while the top two floors were added on in 1910) one block west on Stephen Avenue as their new space.

After flourishing on Stephen Avenue for the next 19 years, it, for a second time was faced with the need to find a new home. This time, the City’s plans for the convention centre’s expansion meant the block they were on was being redeveloped.

So, once again, in 2000, BVAS packed up and moved to Ramsay which has become a haven for Calgary’s creative community. Their current home consists of the entire two floors of a building at 828 – 24th Ave SE.

For 35 years, the BVAS has been home to painters, sculptors, photographers, jewellers, installation artists and conceptual creators.  By providing affordable studio space in a safe, stable environment, it has been and continues to be a creative incubator that nurtures artists and enables them to play a significant role in the evolution of Calgary as a major cultural centre.

Over 150 artists have called BVAS home at some point; several have become significant players on the national and international stage. Some alumni include: include: Dennis Burton, Mark Dicey, Greg Edmonson, Marjan Eggermont, Ron Kanashiro, Ron Moppett, Arthur Nishimura, Bill Rodgers, Naboru Sawai and Bev Tosh.

Community Leadership

Members of the Burns Visual Arts Society have taken an important leadership role in the Calgary arts community. Eleven years ago, members Cecilia Gossen and Celia Meade conceived the East Side Studio Crawl, an arts festival that has since become an annual civic arts event created to highlight and spotlight the talents of artists working in the communities of Ramsey and Inglewood. During the Crawl, artists open their studios to the public, providing a behind-the-scenes adventure through this colourful, rising art district. The reputation of the East Side Studio Crawl and its attendance continues to grow each year.

BVAS also hosts several yearly events such as the Studio Stomp in early summer, Alberta Culture Days and a Gem Event in late fall.

Award Winning

In 2012, member Shona Rae received “Best in Show in Superstition,” a national juried art exhibition in Toronto while another member, Louise Chong won the Niche 2008 Students’ Awards in Philadelphia.

As well, Bev Tosh’s many awards include the Alberta Centennial Medal, the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Alberta College of Art and Design, the Royal Academy of Arts (RCA) designation and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Today, twenty visual artists – from new graduates to seasoned veterans - work in the BVAS’ studios.          

For more information on BVAS or Still Burning, contact Cecilia Gossen ( or Carmen Bellingham (

By Richard White, September 19, 2014

BVAS building today.

The Burns Building the original home of BVAS.

Calgary's International Avenue Deserves More Respect

By Richard White, June 26, 2014 (An edited version of this blog appeared in the Calgary Herald's Neighbours feature titled "Eclectic International Avenue is changing.") 

For many Calgarians, International Avenue (17th Ave SE) is on the wrong side of the “Deerfoot Divide” i.e. they never go east of Deerfoot Trail. Too bad. They don’t know what they are missing. 

 International Avenue has 425 businesses along its 5-km stretch of 17th Avenue SE between 26th and 61st Streets.  Under the leadership of the International Avenue Business Revitalization Zone (BRZ) formed in 1993, these small independent businesses have continued to thrive - some for over 40 years – Gunther’s Fine Baking, Illichmann’s Deli, Harmony Lane, Totem (now Rona) and Calgary Co-op to name a few. Over 30% of the businesses are food-related, with many wholesaling to Calgary’s upscale restaurants, hotels and food trucks. 

To some, International Avenue is a hodgepodge of one to three storey buildings from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s.  There are few chain stores (Target picked International Avenue for one of its first Calgary stores) mostly local “mom and pop” shops.  It’s also a place where you are likely to hear a dozen different languages spoken within a few blocks. In the words of Executive Director Alison Karim-McSwiney, “it has a small town feel with a global marketplace.”

John Gilchrist, Calgary’s foodie guru and author of “My Favourite Restaurants Calgary, Canmore and Banff spends a lot of time on International Avenue. Why? “On this strip, you find food cultures as close as they come to their native lands.  It lives up to its name ‘International Avenue’ with great restaurants like Mimo (Portuguese), Fassil (Ethiopian), Pho Binh Minh (Vietnamese) and many other favourites of mine,” says Gilchrist.

Similarly, Mike Kehoe, Fairfield Commercial thinks International Avenue is “an eclectic commercial strip where ‘the world meets the wild west.’ I love the mix of ethnic tastes with dining options from around the globe and the interesting retail diversity along 17th Avenue SE where it seems anything is commercially possible.”

Unity Park is just one of the many improvements the International Avenue BRZ has spear headed since its inception. 

Desert on 52nd is just one of the many mouth-watering bakeries along the Avenue. They even have diabetic baklava. 

Tipping Point

International Avenue is at the “tipping point” of change with many major new projects in the works. One example is artBox, a 5,4000 square foot multi-purpose art space located in the old Mill’s Painting Building (1807 – 42nd ST SE) with studios and performance space for local artists. Almost anything goes at artBox from Aboriginal to African art.  It is quickly becoming a meeting place for artists from diverse ethnic backgrounds and anyone interested in art. 

International Avenue is also home to an active mural program initiated in 2001; the murals capture the ethnic diversity of the community. In 2014, two new murals will be added to the collection, one celebrating the community’s African cultures and the other its Italian heritage.

In 2010, the City of Calgary working with the communities and the International Avenue BRZ, approved the Southeast 17 Corridor Land Use and Urban Design Plan that recognized International Avenue as one of the City’s important urban corridors.  As a result Land Use changes to allow for more mixed-use developments will result in the addition of 13,000 new residents and 9,000 new jobs to the community over the next 30 years. 

The International Avenue BRZ also successfully lobbied the City to designate land for new 1,000-seat arts and culture performance space.  City funding is also in place to create a BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) route along 17th Avenue SE as part of its Green Line that will provide better east/west transit connectivity.

Artists rendering of International Avenue's proposed performing arts cultural centre. 

An old paint store gets new life as artBox. 

An old paint store gets new life as artBox. 

A rendering of the vision for International Avenue as a tree lined boulevard that integrates auto, bus rapid transit, pedestrian friendly sidewalks and mid-rise condos and offices. 

Festival Fun

International Avenue is home to not one, but two signature events – “Around the World in 35 Blocks” and “Global Fest.”  Initiated in 1997, “Around the World in 35 blocks” is a food tour that happens 14 times a year and everyone is sold out. The June 28 tour is already sold out, so reserve your tickets now for the August 23 or September 27 tours.  These fun bus tours (35 people) take you to five different continents, sampling food from places like Asia, Africa, Middle East, Portugal and the Caribbean. 

Global Fest is an international fireworks festival as well as the “One World” multi-cultural festival.  The fun and festivities take place at Elliston Park, with its 20-hectare pond (the size of Prince’s Island).  This year’s festival takes place August 14 to 25.

Market Collective a diverse group of young artisans now calls International Avenue home; this is an example of how International Avenue is quickly becoming Calgary's new hipster district. 

No Respect

While Calgary’s “other 17th Avenue” doesn’t have the cache of 17th Avenue SW, to those in the know, it is one of Calgary’s hidden gems – especially if you get out of your car and explore.

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Richard White, June 22, 2014 

Some days we just like to head out and explore without any particular agenda or destination. This is particularly fun in urban places where there are usually lots of surprises that aren't in the tourist brochures.  It is a must that you have to walk the street to find the surprises - you won't find them driving or cycling by.   

Recently, I was browsing our photos from our 8,907 km Spring Break 2014 Road Trip and found a collection of images from a fun day of flaneuring in downtown Tucson that I thought would make a nice "everyday tourist" photo essay. 

The great thing about flaneuring is its FREE, you can do it anywhere and you can do it everyday! 

One of our favourite things to do when exploring an urban place is "window licking."  I find images like this as interesting or more interesting than anything in an art gallery.

Who knew a beautiful orange tree could grow (kinda) in downtown Tucson. 

Gotta love a drive in liquor store deli.

Perhaps the world's most colourful colonnade can be found attached to the Goodwill building. 

More window licking fun. 

The Chicago Music Store was a real find.  Family owned since 1919 it is fun place to explore - part music store part museum. 

The Chicago Music Store was a real find.  Family owned since 1919 it is fun place to explore - part music store part museum. 

Retro neon signage adds as much or more visual interest to a streetscape as most public art. 

Ran into a wedding and these young men were more than willing to pose for a photograph - everyone was having fun (see girls in background). 

Sure Portland and Vancouver have their food trucks, but what about an art truck? 

Public art as transit shelter?  Tacky? Fun? Clever? 

Butterflies & Skeletons? Tucson has a rich high and low brow culture. 

More fun signage as public art!

More fun signage as public art!

We did not explore the roof-top patio at the Playground Lounge but it definitely adds an element of fun to Congress St. 

You won't find this postcard image in any of Tucson's tourist information brochures. 

Nor this one!

Nor this one!

Heading home we discovered Tucson's Rattlesnake pedestrian bridge that links the southside residents to downtown who are cut off from downtown by a 6-lane highway.  

Inside the rattlesnake!

Rattlesnake tail plaza. And, yes there is rattle sound as you pass by!

Exploring Phoenix Without A Car!

Richard White, June 20, 2014

One of the things that has discouraged us from visiting Phoenix is that we thought you had to have a car to explore the city.  First off, we are thrifty so adding hundreds of dollars per week to a vacation is something we avoid. Second, we love to walk and take transit when we travel as it allows us to to see more and experience the city more like a local. (Blog: Everyday Tourist Transit Tales)

But our recent stay at the Red Lion Inn and Suites in Tempe (RLIST) proved us wrong - in fact you don’t need a car to explore Phoenix’s many attractions.  “How could that be you ask?” 

Red Lion provides an airport shuttle service that will pick you up at the airport and take you back.  And, while you are staying there, two vans are available to take guests to anywhere within a five-mile radius. What a great amenity!

Five Mile Zone

Within the five-mile zone of RLIST, you can get dropped off and picked up at the following places:

  • Arizona State University campus (a great place to explore and during football season, you have easy access to college football games.
  • ASU Karsten, Pagao, Rolling Hills, Rio and Coronade golf courses
  • Old Town Scottsdale (where you can shop ‘til you drop).
  • Desert Botanical Gardens, Phoenix Zoo, Tempe Beach Park
  • Tempe Marketplace and Tempe Mill Avenue District
  • Gammage Memorial Auditorium, the last commission of Frank Lloyd Wright.  
  • Downtown Tempe where you can catch the LRT train to downtown Phoenix giving you access to baseball and basketball games and the Science Center. Or, stay on the train to Phoenix Art Museum, Heard Art Museum (great gift shop and restaurant) and the hipster Melrose district.
  • During spring training you can get dropped off at the Cubs’ Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, the A’s Phoenix Municipal Stadium and the Giant’s Scottsdale Stadium.
  • Popular festivals include: Arizona Renaissance Festival, Great Arizona Beer Festival, Scottsdale Culinary Festival and Tempe Festival of the Arts. 
Riding the LRT to downtown with the students and cyclists was a much more urban experience than we had anticipated. 

Riding the LRT to downtown with the students and cyclists was a much more urban experience than we had anticipated. 

Phoenix's downtown wayfinding sign lists many attractions. 

Theatre/Performing Arts Centre 

Heard Museum's lovely patio restaurant. 

Modern On Melrose is just one of several antique and second hand stores that make for a fun place to explore.

Papago Golf Course is just minutes away from RLIST. 

"Her Secret is Patience" by Janet Echelman is just one of many public artworks in the downtown. 

Exploring the Desert Botanical Garden was one of the highlights of our visit. 

ArtWalk in Old Town Scottsdale is a 30-year tradition.  Dozens of galleries open their doors to locals and tourists to browse the galleries every Thursday from 7 to 9 pm.  Old Town is several blocks of restaurants, bars, shops and galleries.  Not far way there is Scottsdale Fashion Square a two million square foot mega luxury shopping centre with flagships stores like - Barneys New York, Neiman Marcus, Nordstroms, Microsoft and Banana Republic concept store. 

Extended Stays

RLIST in its former life was an apartment complex, making the suites more like comfortable, and one-bedroom apartments. With Food City within walking distance, you can easily walk to shop for ingredients to make dinner or lunch. (Note: the hotel provides a complimentary hearty breakfast).

The lobby, with its soft seating has a café-like atmosphere for those who want to read or take their laptop to do some work or surf the net.

The Inn also has an attractive outdoor pool area if you want to relax poolside or enjoy a refreshing swim. There’s even BBQs so you can grill up your favourite food to enjoy poolside just like home.

And for golfers who want to work on their putting, they have a carpeted putting green.

RLIST's very functional living room, kitchen, bedroom layout. (Photo credit: Red Lion) 

Large bedroom with space for chair and desk. (Photo credit: Red Lion).

Your own private putting green....12+ on the stimpmeter. 


 If you need a car for a day or two to travel further afield, the shuttle can also drop you off at several car rental offices within the five-mile zone. We’d recommend checking out the Frank Lloyd Wright campus and the Musical Instruments Museum if you decide to rent a car.

The advantage of the RLIST shuttle for couples is that you can go off in different directions in the morning and meet up later for your own poolside Happy Hour chat to share stories.  

We are definitely rethinking Phoenix as a potential winter getaway next year.

P.S.  If you do have a car, RLIST has great free parking that makes it easy to drive to some activities and take the shuttle to others (perhaps you want to enjoy an adult beverage or two). 

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Public Art vs Playgrounds in the 21st Century

Note: On September 27,  2014 Richmond, B.C. tourism officials will open an one-hectare, one million dollar playground based on the area's agricultural history. The playground is located in Terra Nova Park in the northwest corner of Lulu Island, on the site of a former farm house and stables. The playground includes a farm inspired water and sand play area, and a "log-jam" - a climbable timber structure that mimics walking on beach logs. There is also tandem 35-meter-long ziplines, a tree house and aerial rope walkway.  The new playground is being billed as a tourist attraction. FYI - this is Richmond's second million dollar playground, the first was Garden City Community Park, built in 2008.

Kids climbing on the log jam structure. 

Kids climbing on the log jam structure. 

In the 21st century slides and climbing structures take on a whole new dimension. 

In the 21st century slides and climbing structures take on a whole new dimension. 

By Richard White, June 16, 2014

Over the past decade in Calgary (and I expect in many cities around the world), children’s playgrounds have become more and more colourful, creative, sculptural and elaborate.  No longer do a few simple swings, metal slide, teeter-totter and “rocking” duck or horse sufficient for the 21st century playground. I am told by my friends at Ground3 Landscape Architecture that $100,000 would get you a reasonably sized playground and $30,000 get you one small combined play piece.  Since 2010, the Parks Foundation Calgary through the Playgrounds and Communities Grant Program has funded over 100 new playgrounds in Calgary valued at $15 million - many in low income communities. 

While Calgary may not have bragging rights a having one of the top ten playgrounds in the world, our children are blessed with over 1250 playgrounds in parks and schoolyards across the city – that’s about six playgrounds per community.  Nobody is more than a few blocks from a playground in this city.  Perhaps Calgary’s moniker should be The City of Playgrounds.

One of my favourite mid-century modern playgrounds is located in Lakeview. It is interesting in that it is only accessible by walking along a tree-lined pathway from Linden Dr. SW, as there are no streets directly adjacent to the pocket park and its playground. It truly is a hidden gem.  Some of the original playground equipment is still in use and I hope the community will recognize its uniqueness and keep the retro equipment.

Lakeview's hidden playground with simple retro playground equipment - rocking horse and small metal slide. 

Parkdale's Helicopter Park is one of Calgary's most popular playgrounds. The park is looked just below Foothill's hospital and its heliport, hence the park's name as helicopters flying over area a common sight. 

Smaller Backyards / Bigger Playgrounds

I am not sure if it is true, but it seems, as private backyards get smaller, (today’s housing lots are smaller due to infilling in the inner city and mandated smaller lots in new suburbs) there are fewer large backyard swing sets that were poplar in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Or perhaps trampolines, hot tubs and the mega deck with their outdoor kitchens have replaced them.  As result: community playgrounds are becoming more important for young families and those caregivers, grandparents etc., looking after children.  Personally, I think this is great. It means more community socializing which in turn, helps create stronger neighbourhood ties.

I remember one spring day after school; we took the seven-year-old twins next door to the playground across out street. Soon, several other families joined us and before long, we had a community soccer game happening with 4 parents and 8 kids.  Gotta love an impromptu community soccer game. 

Given the recent controversy over public art in Calgary and most other cities (too often, public art is difficult for the public to appreciate, or is simply just not that good), I can’t help but wonder if maybe we should be focusing on commissioning artists to design playground equipment that would be fun and inventive. Imagine if every playground was a mini artpark.

Imagine a scaled down Wonderland (big white head sculpture at the Bow office tower) in the middle of a park where children, teens and adults could climb on it.  There is something innate about human wanting to climb things. Once when I was at the Bow, I saw an office worker climbing Wonderland in his suite and dress shoes (actually he took off his jacket) - he had no problem getting to the top. Unfortunately, the Bow now has security to chase away would be climbers.

It is interesting too how the two mega public art works in Chicago’s Millennium - Park Cloud Gate and Crown Fountain - have become as much playgrounds as public art.

Could we also encourage landscape architects to be more creative in their design of parks and public spaces?  Whenever walking Rossi (our friends’ dog) at River Park, I am always impressed by the “cluster planting” of trees that capitalizes on the subtle synergy of their sculptural shapes as well as the strategic placement of benches to capture vistas of the park, river and downtown skyline. There is an aesthetic quality to the design of the River Park that is very similar to art.  


Calgary office workers just can't resist climbing Wonderland. You can take the child out of the playground, but you can't take the play out of the man!

Jaume Plensa's Crown Fountain in Chicago's Millennium Park is a playground for locals and tourist of all ages.

Cloud Gate, also in Chicago's Millennium Park is a magnet for people to look and play with it.

This well-treed playground in Chicago'sGold Coast community attracted dozens of families mid-week, mid-day in April.

Calgary's Beltline community is one of Canada's most dense communities. It boast this very popular playground in Haultain Park.  Downtown Calgary is very family friendly. 

New playgrounds have lots of fun colourful climbing equipment that has many parallels with modern art. 

The mono-chromatic blue playground in Tuxedo also has many links to art - line, colour, shape and composition. 

The trees in River Park have a sculptural quality to them.  Overall the park with its diversity of trees, rolling landscape is

New Trends in Playground Design

Perhaps the best playground I have ever seen was in Container Park in Las Vegas.  In the middle of a new urban development made of railway containers was a fun children’s playground the size of half a football field.  At one end was a computerized piece of playground equipment that could be programmed so people of all ages could play games of their choice. At the other end was a three-storey tree house that was fun to climb.  In between were other interactive play areas – no swings, no slides and no teeter-totter here. 

Surrounding the playground were outdoor patios where people could sit and watch – providing some of the best people watching I have ever done. The new “digital” playground components have great appeal especially to adolescents and adding a new dimension to playgrounds.

 In the UK, the Dinton Pastures Country Park (335-acre park with 7 lakes, two rivers, meadows and a 1904 farm house converted to a cafe) recently opened a new Children’s Play Park that epitomizes the movement to use more natural materials as part of playground design. The park includes several nest towers, the largest 4 meters tall, zip wires, giant climbing logs, a willow maze, story-telling area, woodlands obstacle course and picnic area. Designed by landscape architects Davies White in collaboration with artists and fabricators, local materials were used as much as possible.  View Video

The newest trend in playground equipment is computerized games that are attractive to younger children and parents during the day and my young adults at night.

Young adults enjoying the Container Park playground

While these lounge chairs have been removed from East Village's Riverwalk, they would make for a good addition to another neighbourhood park as kids would love to climb over and under them and adolescents and adults would use them to lounge and chat. They also have a wonderful sculptural quality to them. 

This Henry Moore sculpture in front of the Art Gallery of Ontario becomes a fun place for older children and adolescents to hang out and chat.

Parque Gulliver

Parque Gulliver in Valencia Spain is Cristal McLean's (principal at Ground3 Landscape Architects) favourite playground. Located in the old channel of the Turia River, the playground is based on the story of Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift. As per the story, a giant wanders into town and scares the tine Lilliputian people so they tied him to the ground while sleeping. Today it is the children who are the Lilliputian people who can climb all over the giant. trying to get to know him.  The sleeves become caves to explore, the legs are stairs to climb and the hair is a slide.  And its free!  First built in 1990, it was completely refurbished in 2012 and continues to be one of Valencia's biggest tourist attractions. 

Parque Gulliver aerial view

Every part of the giant is available to climb on and slide down. 

Giant ant is both public art and a playground. 

Last Word

The more I think about it, the more it makes sense to me that we should be hybridizing public art and playgrounds to create public spaces that are more interactive.  We should think long and hard before we ever commission a static public artwork again.

Similarly, I would love to see landscape architects be given freer reign to exercise their creativity in designing our parks and plazas.

Perhaps Calgary should change its current “1% of capital project costs for public art” policy to “1% of capital project costs for public space enhancement” to allow us to better create unique and active public spaces that more citizens can embrace at some level year-round for years to come.

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The Calgary Stampede MEGA Makeover Has Begun!

Richard White, June 11, 2014

After the devastating flood of 2013, the Calgary Stampede had some tough decisions to make as the Board and Management pondered its future. Rather than just fix the place up, the Stampede commenced with its mega-million dollar makeover plan. 

Calgarians won’t recognize this year’s Stampede Park. Almost 50% of the outdoor space has been reconfigured and several major new players are participating for the first time!     

Aerial view of reconfigured Calgary Stampede Grounds (photo credit: Calgary Stampede)

Nine things to know about Stampede 2014…. 


The Great FUNtier is the name of the Stampede’s new Kids Zone.  It has been moved to the area south of the Saddledome and north of the racetrack.  The space, now 25% larger than the old Kids Zone, will allow for more greenery, easier stroller maneuvering and more seating.  In addition to the kid’s midway, there will also be a mini Grandstand Stage for live entertainment. 

The location is also convenient to the family-oriented agricultural programming at the new Agrium Western Event Centre and the RCMP Musical Ride tent.

Did you know that park admission is free for kids under 6?  There is also free admission for children aged 7 to 12 on specially marked Coke, Diet Coke and Coke Zero in stores now.

Lollipop Swings (photo credit: Calgary Stampede)

The new FUNtier slide (photo credit: Calgary Stampede)

The new FUNtier slide (photo credit: Calgary Stampede)


The Grandstand Show is getting a makeover by new Creative Director, Dave Pierce who was the Musical Director for Vancouver’s Winter Olympics' opening and closing ceremonies. Pierce, an Emmy Award winner, brings a new vision and energy to Grandstand extravaganza. The theme for this year’s show is “Barnburner.” The opening segment features Tom Glass (one of Alberta famous chuckwagon families) telling his family’s story using a series of mega comic book action figures.   

The costumes for Barnburner have been designed by Genvieve Cleary and built by Marco Marco Studio, famous for designing the costumes of Katie Perry and Britney Spears. 

The permanent stage is also being completely redesigned by Paul Bates who was responsible for Cirque Du Soleil’s “O” stage.  It includes the latest in pyrotechnics and amazing stage effects capacity. The new stage will be one of Canada's most technologically advanced theatrical stages. 

Sample of mega action figure comic book visual. (photo credit: Calgary Stampede)


The new $62 million Agrium Western Event Centre (AWEC) with its dramatic rotunda entrance designed by Calgary’s Gibbs Gage Architects, is just the beginning of rebuilding Stampede Park.  The new building which opened recently adds much needed, year-round event and trade show space as well as a classroom for hands-on school programs.  AWEC has already hosted Canada’s largest ever 4H club gathering.

Agrium Western Event Centre (photo credit: Calgary Stampede)

Agrium Western Event Centre (photo credit: Calgary Stampede)


Nashville North has moved “north,” closer to Cowboys Dance Hall tent and the Stampede Casino to create a “party zone” - some have already dubbed it the adult entertainment zone (good clean fun of course)! This could be an interesting precursor to the creation of the year- round Stampede Trail – a pedestrian entertainment-oriented street of retail, restaurants, pubs and clubs along Olympic Way (4th Street SE) linking it with East Village.

Nashville North is a mega dance hall (capacity 1850 people) with live bands all day and into the wee hours of the morning! (photo credit: Calgary Stampede)


“Sneak a Peek!” Paul Hardy has been engaged to procure some uber-chic 2014 Stampede merchandise, some of which is already available at Hardy’s Inglewood studio tucked away at Bay#5, 2510 Alyth Rd. SE. in Calgary's funky Inglewood/Ramsay community.

Paul Hardy's cowgirl fun fashions. (photo credit: Calgary Stampede)

More Paul Hardy's fashions! (photo credit: Calgary Stampede)


“Go Big or Go Home” could be the theme of this year’s Stampede with the introduction of the 777-pound burger ($5,000) and the 125-pound hot dog ($1,000).  Juicy’s Outlaw Grill is bringing the world’s largest grill (the size of a transportation truck) to this year’s Stampede. This is a first in Canada.  Check out the video.


Biggest Pop-up Patio? Triple B (Barbecue, Bulls, Beer) is also making its first visit to Canada creating a patio for you and 999 of your closest friends. With two mechanical bulls on site, it should make for great people-watching.   

Mechanical Bull Riding at the new Triple B patio. (photo credit: Calgary Stampede)


WWW Food!  Every year the Stampede brings some wild, weird and wacky food combinations to Calgary. This year is no exception.  The Scorpion Pizza has to be the weirdest, followed closely by Deep Fried Cheezies, Polish Poutine, Porcupine Corn Dog, and Vicious Fish on a Stick. 

Yikes! Scorpion Pizza. (photo credit: Calgary Stampede)


Did you know the Calgary Stampede is one of North America’s biggest music festivals? For the first time, the Dome is fully booked with shows every night by the likes of Shania Twain, Reba McEntire, Keith Urban and Calgary’s own Paul Brandt. In total Stampede 2014 includes over 340 musical performances at 15 different venues. 

Canada's sweetheart. (photo credit: Calgary Stampede)


2012 was the Stampede's 100th birthday, 2013 was the year of the Great Flood and 2014 will be remembered as the beginning of the new 21st century Calgary Stampede.  The Calgary Stampede is truly one of the best annual festivals in the world. It is six major events all wrapped up into one mega extravaganza - Grandstand Show, Rodeo, Chuckwagon Races, Midway, Agricultural Fair and Music Festival.   

Stampede Park is not only one of North America's best and oldest urban Agricultural Fair sites, but also one of the largest, busiest and most authentic SHED districts (Sports, Hospitality, Entertainment District) in North America.

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A 24 hour quickie in Santa Fe

Our six-week Spring Break 2013, 8,907 km road trip itinerary called for 24 hours in Santa Fe. Wanting to make the most of our quickie visit, we were up early to check out of the lovely Parq Central Hotel in Albuquerque and hit the road for the 90-minute drive.  We wanted a full day given Santa Fe is a mecca for culture vultures like us.

Though we knew arriving early meant we’d get there before anything opened, the plan was to do some window licking before the shops opened and get a lay of the land before the hordes of tourists invaded the city centre.

The early bird gets the art!

As luck would have it, we saw a Goodwill sign on the outskirts. It was open so we decided to check it out. I quickly found five large (40” by 30’) unsigned abstract colour field paintings on stretched canvas seemingly all by the same artists. It was tough to narrow it down to two, the maximum that would fit into our already treasure-filled Nissan Altima.  We chose the two deep psychotic blue pieces, one with some illegible ghost writing adding a poetic element to the painting. The second painting has an even richer blue background wash with just a few bright white markings that stimulate the imagination to develop and play with different interpretations. Oh yes, there were just $15 each. 

Like O'Keeffe's paintings both of the Goodwill "unknown artist" paintings evoke a sense of the spiritual, sensual and mystery of nature. 

O’Keeffe Museum / Prison

I had been looking forward all trip to seeing the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum collection and comparing her work to Canada’s goddess of art and nature - Emily Carr.  I was surprised at how small the museum was; it seemed just as I was getting into the artist’s work it was over.  I was also not impressed with the number of security guards, it seemed as much a prison as a museum. 

That being said the museum does a good job of telling O’Keeffe’s life story and motivates one to head out and explore the desert.   

The Central Plaza

The central Santa Fe Plaza is not only a National Historic Landmark, but the “heart of Santa Fe.” Many downtown plazas and squares make this claim but in Santa Fe it is most definitely true.  While we were there, a military band was playing played on the bandshell with a block-long row of local artisans selling their art and crafts across the street.  A wonderful array of small restaurants and shops, line the streets around the plaza, as well as museums and the iconic Cathedral making it very pedestrian friendly.

The Plaza block has been Santa Fe’s commercial, social and political center since 1610. Initially a walled fort, over time it has evolved as the city and the economy of the area changed.  Like all good public spaces, it must adapt to changes over time.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi

Though the current cathedral was built over a 17 year period from 1869 to 1886, there has been a church on this site since 1626.  Its statuesque Romanesque Revival architecture with rounded arched entrance, Corinthian columns, truncated square towers and large rose window above the entrance stands in sharp contrast to the surrounding low-rise, minimalist Pueblo adobe buildings surrounding it.

The inside the Cathedral has all the grandeur of a great European church with sky-high ceilings, rich stained glass windows and other decorative elements.  As we entered, the beacon of light shone brightly above the altar while the rest of the building was shrouded in shadow yielding a heavenly, resurrection quality that was a little eerie. The church was full of interesting art and artefacts, making it as much a museum as a place of worship.   

These statues have a lot in common with figures in the various exhibitions at the International Folk Art Museum. 

More links between folk art and religious art at the cathedral.

Santa Fe is rich in history and has attracted major artists from around the world to visit and create here.

Kateri Tekakwitha  (1656 to 1680) the first Indian of North America to become a Saint.

Window Licking

One of the most fun things (at least to us) to do in any city is window lick (the French term for window shopping translates literally into “window licking”). Most of Santa Fe’s downtown shops are upscale and to be honest, are out of our price range. We did pop into a few galleries and the two paintings we got earlier in the day at the Goodwill would easily go for $5,000 or more if they were signed and we had some providence.

As a former, public gallery curator, I know our new paintings were done by someone with experience; not the work of some “Sunday afternoon” painter.  The thrill of the hunt is to find great artworks in off the beaten path places.  They will tell you at the upscale galleries “you should buy what you like!” Well the true test of that is buy something at a thrift store and hang it up alongside works of major Canadian artists like Maxwell Bates, Marion Nicol and Bev Tosh or international artists like Miro, Alechinsky or Appel.  It is interesting to integrate “high” and “low” brow art in your home.

window licking 1
While not technically a window, I found these courtyard sculptures by looking through a glassless opening in a wall next to the sidewalk. 

While not technically a window, I found these courtyard sculptures by looking through a glassless opening in a wall next to the sidewalk. 


Based on a hot tip from Calgary friends, we wandered just off the Plaza to The Shed. The fourth generation of the Shed family serves up some of the most creative and authentic Northern New Mexico cuisine.  We opted for the traditional Enchilada Plate and the Pozole and definitely weren’t disappointed.   The Shed is well known for its red and green chilli sauce.  Before we left were had a tutorial on importance of always asking, “Is the red or green chile sauce the hottest today?”  If you want to eat like local, order your “Christmas style” i.e. a little of both.  The Shed was packed with both tourists and locals, making it a fun place for lunch and people watching. 


Afternoon on Museum Hill

Located a few kilometers outside of Santa Fe is Museum Hill so named because it is home to four major museums and they sit on a hill with great views.  You could easily spend all day here, but we had only the afternoon.

For us, the museum that held the most interest was the Museum of International Folk Art which houses the largest collection of folk art in the world.  It did not disappoint.

We quickly found the huge Girard Wing (it could be a museum on its own) and the Multiple Visions: A Common Bond, a permanent exhibition with an astounding collection of 1,000s of toys, miniature figurines, complete villages, masks and textiles from 100 different countries.  It is perhaps the most colourful, playful and delightful exhibition I have ever experienced.  It is astounding how much folk art Alexander and Susan Girard collected starting in1939. Brenda had to drag me out!

And it was a good thing she did as there was much, much more to see. The Hispanic Wings Wooden Menagerie: Made in New Mexico (on until Feb 15, 2015) was a much more traditional folk art exhibition with singular, primitively carved animals and people.

The final exhibition, was Tako Kichi: Kite Crazy in Japan (on until July 27, 2014) explored the art of kite making and kite fighting.  The huge floor-to-ceiling (20 foot) kites were impressive works of art with their neon colours and expressionistic designs.  We don’t usually spend a lot of time watching the museum videos, but in this case, it was fascinating learning how the kites are made and the culture of kite-fighting.  Unfortunately, the day we were there, there were no kite-making workshops or kite flying on the plaza; that would have added another dimension to the experience.

The other museums on the hill are: the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture (housing 70,000 artefacts from prehistoric to contemporary times), the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian (an octagonal building inspired by the Navajos hooghan i.e. their traditional home) and the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art (3,700 objects from around the world from medieval time to modern world). There is a restaurant and several gift shops, and 


Just one of numerous miniature villages in the Girard Wing.

Larger fun folk art pieces.

An entire collection of angels.  There are strong links between folk art and religion. 

Just one of many displays of masks.

Life size folk art from Brasil. 

In the Gallery of Conscience there were a number of hands-on activities that related to home.  One was called "Find your place at the table" where visitors were invited to take a paper plate, draw their favourite meal on it and place it at the dinner table.  Another was for you to take a post-it and write on it as per the above image. The activities were simple to do, fun and thought-provoking.

Some of the I feel at home when...

Several large 20-foot kites were suspended from the ceiling, creating a very colourful and dramatic statement.  

Historic artwork illustrating the kite fighting tradition.

Still image from video that of kite fighting. 

Dinner at Whole Foods

 I am not sure what it is about Whole Foods, but ever since our Lincoln Park, Chicago Whole Foods experience, it seems wherever we go we have to check out the local Whole Foods and often have dinner there.  Perhaps it is because we get tired of restaurants and just want something that resembles a simple home-cooked meal.  Perhaps it is because of their quinoa salad has quickly become our favourite.   For $30, we can enjoy a glass of wine or a craft beer, some interesting entrees, lovely fresh bread/roll and mouth-watering desserts. 

Where to stay

Sure, you could stay downtown and pay hundreds of dollars/night for a room. Or you could check out and get a last minute deal like we did at the Best Western Inn at Santa Fe for $70 including breakfast and parking. 

Sacred Places?

Some places, for some reason(s) have become sacred places for humans - both in the past and the present. Some places have an almost spiritual, transcendental magnetism about them. Santa Fe is often placed in this category, as is Sonoma, Arizona. Later in our road trip, someone said Livingston, Montana is their sacred place. I am not sure that Santa Fe is my sacred place, but perhaps 24 hours wasn’t enough time for Santa Fe to cast its spell on me.

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Glenbow: A new kind of art museum

By Richard White,  June1 , 2014

(An edited version of this blog appeared in the New Condos section of the Calgary Herald, titled "Vibrant vision fires up Glenbow fans" on Saturday, May 31, 2014)

Great cities have great museums! New York City has several - Museum of Modern Art, Guggenheim and Metropolitan Museum of Art. Paris has the Louvre, Centre Pompidou, Musee d’Orsay and Rodin Museum.  Everyday tens of thousands of locals and visitors invade the city centres of London and Paris to be entertained, educated and enlightened by a museum experience.  The diversity and quality of the museum experience is critical to understanding of a city’s history and sense of place, both for locals and tourists.  The importance of museums in defining a city was reinforced during our recent 6-week US road trip, where we toured 24 different museums and art galleries in places like Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Tucson, Albuquerque, Colorado Springs, Denver and Helena.

In Calgary, the Glenbow Museum is both our art and history museum.  For many years now it has struggled with this dual role.  Attendance and membership have not grown over the past 25 years despite the city’s doubling of population, as well as the number of its downtown workers.  

Recently, Donna Livingstone celebrated her one-year anniversary as Glenbow’s President & CEO. I thought it was timely to check in with her learn about her plans for the Glenbow.

The Building

Livingstone was quick to say the Glenbow has no plans to move out of the downtown. In fact, the current Glenbow building is in very good shape and what is needed is just modest renovations to the exterior and interior exhibition spaces.

She reminded me that when the Glenbow was designed and built (in the mid to late ‘60s), 9th Avenue was THE place to be with its new Calgary Tower, Convention Centre and hotel, as well as the train station and the grand Palliser Hotel. Today, 8th Avenue has become Calgary’s signature street so the museum needs to re-orient its entrance to the northside.  Her vision includes a new welcoming Stephen Avenue Walk entrance with an enhanced gallery shop, cafe and bold new signage.

Livingstone would also like to see the second floor look like a contemporary art gallery, not a convention centre space. This could be accomplished with a new ceiling and lighting, as well as the removal of the carpet to allow for a polished concrete floor, a relatively “mini-makeover” so to speak. 

Livingstone is looking at a mega-makeover of the third floor, which, in the past, has always been reserved for a major history exhibition that is on view for 10+ years without any changes (often leading to the comment “nothing ever changes at the Glenbow”).

She sees this floor becoming a multi-purpose space for art, artefacts, readings and performances that explore both the new West to the old West from multiple perspectives, genres and artistic practices. Using in-house expertise, combined with guest curators and other cultural groups locally, nationally and internationally, she wants to aggressively program the space to tell Calgary, southern Alberta and Western Canada stories. It is an ambitious and compelling vision that integrates and hybridizes modern art practices with historical documentation. It is the beginning of what she calls “a new kind of art museum.”  

As the fourth floor doesn’t have the high ceilings needed for today’s contemporary art and history exhibitions, her vision is to transform this space into a “hands-on” educational gallery for people of all ages and backgrounds.  In addition to the educational activities, it will include display cases filled with art and artifacts from the Glenbow’s collection that will rotate on a regular basis so “there will always be something new at the Glenbow!”

The Glenbow from 9th Avenue looking northwest. 

Many many years ago I attended a visioning workshop on Downtown Calgary and the group I was in looked at how the Glenbow and the Calgary Tower might look in the future.  This is the image we create of the future Glenbow.  

Glenbow's entrance from Stephen Avenue Walk.

While regular passenger train service not longer exists in Calgary, Downtown's 9th Avenue is home to the Canadian Pacific Railway Pavilion, which houses the vintage early 20th century passenger cars.  

Building Partnerships

One of Livingstone’s greatest assets is that she is a Calgarian; she knows the community and key players. Over the past year, one of her priorities has been to foster the Glenbow’s relationships and build new community partnerships. So, in addition to working with art gallery and museum groups like Alberta College of Art, Military Museums, Fort Calgary, University of Calgary and Contemporary Calgary (formerly the Art Gallery of Calgary, Triangle Gallery and Institute of Modern and Contemporary Art), she has also reached out to theatre and literary groups to let them know the “new Glenbow” is open and keen to work with them to bring its exhibitions and collection to life.  She is also working with the Calgary Stampede to create something celebrate our cowboy and western culture year round.

One recently example of a new partnership was with Calgary’s Verb Theatre who perform “Of Fighting Age” right in the gallery space containing the “Transformation: A.Y. Jackson & Otto Dix” exhibition (an exhibition of war art on loan from the National War Museums). For Livingstone and those who attended, the synergy of the visual and performance art was illuminating.

Building Community Support

The Glenbow’s signature fundraiser, SCHMANCY, has been recognized by Maclean’s magazine as one of the top five power galas in the country.  This year’s raucous evening of art and culture featured the likes of Bryan Adams, Rebecca Norton (Kung Fu Panties) and George Stroumboulopoulos. This is the new Glenbow – young, cheeky and schmancy. Oh yes, it also raised $280,000!

Exhibitions like “Made in Calgary: The ‘90s at Glenbow” by guest curator Nancy Tousley - with its 100 artworks by 55 artists - are critical to fostering the support of the local visual art community, something the Glenbow and most major Canadian art galleries struggle with. 

From June 7 to August 24, 2014, the Glenbow will feature Calgary’s young (under 40 years of age) whimsical glass art collective Bee Kingdom in an exhibition titled “Iconoclast In Glass.” To enhance visitors’ appreciation of glass art, the Bee Kingdom’s exhibition will be paired with an exhibition showcasing the Glenbow’s collection of historical and contemporary glass (which happens to be the largest in Canada).

In the past, the emerging and established local artists would often complain the Glenbow was ignoring their work.  This is no longer true!

The Bee Kingdom have exhibited their tiny, fun colourful creatures internationally and are now  at the Glenbow.

Last Word

For Livingstone, the duality of the being both art and history museum is something she wants to capitalize on, not complain about. With the largest, most diverse collection of art and artifacts in Western Canada (three times more art than the Vancouver Art Gallery), one of the largest collection of corporate head offices in North America in her backyard, as well as one of the strongest and most diverse cultural communities in Canada, she feels the Glenbow is well positioned to become the “new type of art museum” she envisions.

That is, a museum that tells the story of Calgary’s “sense of place: past, present and future” to Calgarians and visitors.  A museum that integrates historical and contemporary multi-discipline story-telling experiences which speak to everyone.  And, a museum that offer programs at noon hour, happy hour, weekday and weekends!

The fact Livingstone has no money to do any of the physical and programming changes she envisions doesn’t seem to faze her. She is confident the Glenbow will become Calgary’s the great museum (my words not hers) that Calgary deserves. It will be very interesting to watch the Glenbow’s transformation over the next few years. 

Donna Livingstone showing off her lassoing abilities.  A new kind of art museum, needs a new kind of President & CEO! (Photo credit: Calgary Herald)

Inglewood: Calgary's most unique community?

By Richard White, May 29, 2014 (an edited version of this blog appeared in the Calgary Herald's Neighbours section, May 29, 2014, titled "Cool Inglewood perfect for life, work and play).

Inglewood has the distinction of not only being Calgary’s oldest community (established in 1875), but also one of the most desirable urban communities in the City. And, while there are many fine historical buildings and relics from the past -including two old barns and an old brewery - still in the community, what makes its future particularly exciting are the many new private investments.

Two of the biggest additions to the community are George Brookman’s West Canadian Digital Imaging headquarter building at the east end of 9th (Atlantic) Avenue and Jim Hill’s Atlantic Art Block at the west end (the very modern 4-storey red brick building with the wavy roof).  These commercial anchors, combined with the existing shops, restaurants, cafes, clubs and pubs are critical to making Inglewood a perfect “live, work, play” community.


Inglewood offers a diversity of housing options - from early 20th century cottages and Bow River mansions, to new infill homes  and low-rise condos.  At the far east end of Inglewood along 17th Avenue, almost at Deerfoot Trail, lies the 15-acre SoBow (south of downtown) condo development by Calgary’s M2i Development.   While Bridgeland, Beltline and East Village tend to get all the attention SoBow offers arguably the best amenities and accessibility of any new urban village Calgary. 

In minutes, you can be on the Deerfoot, Blackfoot or Barlow Trails, or an easy cycle or walk into downtown if you live in SoBow.  From an amenities perspective, the Zoo, Pearce Estate Park, Inglewood Bird Sanctuary and the shops on 9th Avenue are basically in your backyard.

This large development has six phases and when complete, will consist of approximately 700 units, effectively creating a new “village” of 2,000+ people. (Click here for aerial views).

Heritage apartment blocks like this one make for great artists' live work spaces. 


The Atlantic Art Block not only offers office space, but at street level there are retail shops, a restaurant and the uber cool 15,000 square foot Esker Foundation Art Gallery in the penthouse. At street level, the building is home to the popular Gravity Café and Bite Groceteria - both have been an instant hit with foodies. It is a great example of a mixed-use building. 

West Canadian Digital Imaging 60,000 square foot building is a more tradition office only space. It employs not only his  250 workers, but another 90 Travel Alberta employees.  

Creating a “live, work, play” community is more than just about densification by building more condos and adding grocery stores, restaurants and shops.  It is just as critical that business owners like Brookman and Hill decide to locate their businesses in Calgary's established communities and not just downtown or suburban office parks.  Workers are critical to the survival of the shops, cafes and restaurants as they provide weekday customers, while the residential spaces fill the “customer” role evenings and weekends.

The Atlantic Art Block combines both contemporary architectural design (wave roof and glass walls at the corner) with more traditional brick three storey warehouse massing mid-block to create an exciting architectural statement as you enter Inglewood from the west. 

West Canadian Digital Building is a  more traditional modern interpretation of early 20th century warehouse architecture. 


Inglewood could be branded as Calgary’s music district as it is not only home to Recordland, Festival Hall, Ironwood and Blues Can, but also many of its old cottage houses and walk-up apartments are home to local musicians. 

If you haven’t been to Recordland, you should go. It is one of the largest privately owned record stores in Canada with over two million records.  The Festival Hall is the new year round home of the Calgary Folk Festival, as well as concert space for local and touring musicians. Ironwood and Blues Can offer live music seven days a week.  

Tim Williams at the Blues Can jamming with friends from around the world.

Recordland is just one of many local shops in Inglewood that makes it a fun place to flaneur.

Inglewood is a great place for window licking with lots of unique window installations. 

Rouge combines history and contemporary dining for a unique experience. 

Nerd is just one of many hipster hangouts in Inglewood. 

Nerd is just one of many hipster hangouts in Inglewood. 

Did You Know?

In 2004, EnRoute Magazine identified Inglewood as one of the Canada’s top 10 “coolest neighbourhoods.”  Over the past 10 years, it has gotten even cooler. 

The Inglewood Lawn Bowling Club (established in 1936) has become a tony place for Calgary hipsters.  The Club is so popular they have just completed a shiny new clubhouse.

In 2006, Inglewood’s Rouge restaurant placed 60th on the S. Pellegrino World’s 100 Best Restaurants list. Rouge, is located in the A.E.Cross house, built in 1891.  (Back Story: Cross was one of the “Big Four” investors in the Calgary Stampede).  The restaurant boasts its own vegetable garden that covers six city lots. How cool is that?

Every Saturday afternoon, Calgary’s own “cool cat” Tim Williams hosts a Blues Jam at the Blues Can in Inglewood.  Williams is the winner of the 2014 International Blues Competition in two categories: best solo and duo artist and best guitarist. 

Inglewood’s boundaries are the Bow River (north) to the CPR Yard (south) and the Bow River (east) to Elbow River (west).

Last Word

With everything from lawn bowling to Saturday jams; from the sounds of the Zoo animals to the sounds of trains and planes; from one of the world's best restaurants, to Canada's best used record store; Inglewood is definitely, Calgary’s most unique community. 

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Don't be too quick to judge

Yes, Inglewood does still have two barns. I believe the red barn serves as storage for Calgary's own Canadian Pickers.

This is the historic Stewart Livery constructed in 1909 at 806 14th St. SE. Livery stables were integral to the daily life of frontier cities. They served many functions - hire of horse and vehicles, sale of horses and vehicles as storage of hay, coal and wood.  

Do we really need all of this public art?

By Richard White, May 16, 2014

It hurts me to say this, but “do we really need all of this public art?” Over the past year, I have visited dozens of cities making a point to always seek out the public art wherever we go.  I have seen literally hundreds of public artworks, big and small, abstract and representational, local and international artists.  I have served on a jury for selecting a public artwork for a Calgary LRT station and I have written several blogs and columns on the pros and cons of public art.

In all of my travels (dozens of cities across North America) I have only experienced four public artworks that I feel have captured the public’s imagination enough to make them stop, look and interact with the art.  Sadly, most public art within a few months quickly becomes just a part of urban landscape.  More often than not, public art doesn’t really add to the urban experience by creating a unique sense of place or a memorable experience.   

 While I love art, I appreciate that I am in the minority; that for many, there is not much public appeal in public art that is being installed around out city (and other cities).  It is therefore not surprising that many Calgarians as well as many in other cities, question the value of spending tax dollars on art that adds little value to their life.

Found this public public art piece in downtown Portland the "Bike Capital of America." What do you think? Does Calgary need more bike art? More horses? You can't please everyone. 

Fun & Interactive 

Of the four pieces of public art that did engage the public, two were in Chicago’s Millennium Park – Crown Fountain by Jaume Plensa and Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor. These were by far the most successful with hundreds of people actively engaged by their intuitive playfulness.   

In Vancouver, “A-maze-ing Laughter” by artist Yue Minjun in a small pocket park (Morton Park) next to English Bay beach seems to always have people young and old wandering around the 14 (twice life size) bronze cherub-like, laughing figures.  The park is full of laughter and smiles, something urban spaces need more of.

The fourth piece is Jeff de Boer’s “When Aviation was Young” at the Calgary Airport West Jet waiting area. This two-piece, circus-looking sculpture with toy airplanes that spin around when you turn the large old-style key is a huge hit with young children waiting to board a plane.  Like most successful public art, it is fun, and encourages public interaction.

In Calgary’s downtown the two pieces I see the public most often stop, take pictures and interact with are “The Famous Five” on Olympic Plaza and “Conversation” on Stephen Avenue Walk.  Interesting to note that they are both figurative, pedestrian scale and located in an active public space.  Downtown Calgary boasts over 100 public artworks, but none of them are a “must see” attractions (at best they area a “nice to see” and get a walk-by glance).

For all the hoopla over Jaume Plensa’s “Wonderland” (big white head) when it was first installed on the plaza in front of the Bow Tower, today it sits alone attracting only a few visitors a day.  

This is not just a Calgary dilemma. Even in Chicago, major public artworks by the likes of Picasso, Calder and Miro (three of the 20th century’s most respected artists) situated on office plazas just a few blocks from Millennium Park, are devoid of any spectators outside of office hours.

Anish Kapoor's "Cloud Gate" is so popular with the public that it has a nickname - THE BEAN! When the public gives an artwork a nickname you know they like it!

"Root Like a Liquid Flung Over the Plaza" by Acconci Studio graces the corner in front of the Memphis Performing Arts Center.  It has many of the qualities of Kapoor's "Cloud Gate," it is fun and there are interesting reflections and places to sit, yet it attracts no crowds.  

Juame Plensa's "Crown Fountain" is popular day and night. It is a wonderful place to linger.  It attracts thousands of people most days spring, summer and fall.  

Jaume Plensa's "Wonderland" located on an office plaza in downtown Calgary attracts only a few visitors a day. 

Come on admit it, even this photo of "A-maze-ing Laughter" brings a smile to your face.

Calder's "Flamingo" was unveiled in 1974.  It is fun, colourful and playful piece, but it doesn't invite any interaction. Over the years it has become less and less a magnet for tourist and locals to visit.  

William McElcheran's "Conversation" on Stephen Avenue Walk is very popular with the public.  Often people will place a coffee cup in their hand or add a scarf to one of the figures.  The public loves to have their picture taken with the two businessmen. 

Barbara Paterson's "Famous Five" sculpture in Calgary's Olympic Plaza invites the public to come and sit with them, have your picture taken and some even like to leave a tip.

Big Names / Big Deal 

Commissioning a big name artist clearly doesn’t guarantee the artwork will be successful in capturing the public’s imagination. 

Claus Oldenburg’s “Big Sweep” sculpture in front of the Denver Art Museum or “Roof Like a Liquid Flung Over the Plaza” by the Acconci Studio on the plaza of the Memphis Performing Arts Centre are both major pieces by established artists, yet they have done nothing to animate the space around them. 

Perhaps we need to thing differently about commissioning public art.  Nashville has a program, which commissions local artists to create bike racks that serve a dual purpose. Some are very clever and some I think are tacky, but at $10,000 each you can afford to have a few duds. 

In the early ‘90s the Calgary Downtown Association initiated the “Benches as sculpture” project, commissioning local arts to create sculptures that also serve as benches. The artwork (benches) have become a valued addition to the downtown landscape, so much so that the Provincial judges lobbied to make sure the “Buffalos” were returned to the courthouse plaza after it was renovated to add a parking lot underneath.

Claus Oldenburg and Coosjevan Bruggen's "Big Sweep" sits outside the entrance to the Denver Art Museum. It is fun, but static, and there is signage next to it with several rules that restrict how you can interact with it. 

This piece sits outside the Tucson Public Library in their Cultural District.  I couldn't find information on the artist or the title.  We passed this piece several times and never saw anyone stopping to look at it. 

The City of Calgary allows office developers to build taller buildings in return for pubic art on their plazas like this one. The developers get more space to rent and in theory the public gets a better quality urban space to enjoy. In reality this space on the southwest plaza at Bankers Hall is enjoyed by only by a few smokers a day. 

Nashville's fun bike racks as art program adds some whimsy to this streetscape. 

Lessons Learned

It hurts me to say this, but Calgary is not being well served by the millions of dollars we have invested in public art, both publicly and privately.  In my opinion, what would be best is if we pool all of the available public art money (bonus density and 1% for public art) and create dedicated art parks.  I am thinking we could have sites in each quadrant and perhaps a couple in the greater downtown that are designated for new artworks. When a new project is approved the public art contribution would be designated to the closest art park. 

The current, “democratic” approach of placing public art of all shapes, sizes and subject matter randomly throughout the city (parks, LRT stations, bridges, plazas) simply fragments and isolates the public art experience.  What was supposed to be a program to humanize and make the urban environment more interesting and attractive, has only served to outrage many and create rifts in our community.

The time has come for Calgary and most cities to rethink their public art policy.

If you like this blog, you might like: 

The Famous Five at Olympic Plaza 

Public Art Love It or Hate It

Putting the public back into public art

Confessions of a public art juror

Helena: A Helluva Downtown

By Richard White, May 6, 2014

We have been visiting Helena, Montana's capital city for over 20 years and we never get tired of it.  While some small cities (Helena's population is 29,000) boast about their historical downtowns and then disappoint, Helena's historic downtown is full of interesting shops, architecture and ghost signs. It is definitely worth adding to your 2014 road trip itinerary.  

As a teaser, here are some of our favourite things to see and do.

Barnes Jewelry (357 N. Last Chance Gulch)

Barnes Jewelry is almost more a museum than a retail store.  Yes, they have jewelry and lots and lots of clocks and watches, but what really makes it an enticing place to visit are the owners - Marvin Hunt and Stacy Henry. They are always eager to chat with you about the stories behind the historic clocks they have collected.  Don't be surprised if there is a school tour happening when you visit, as young children love to learn about how old timepieces worked and the owners revel in sharing the history of their artifacts. 

Barnes also has one of the best store window displays we have ever encountered.  While they may not be as big and flashy as the Christmas windows at Macy's in New York, they have a fun small town authenticity about them that we love. 

Clocks of all sizes and shapes decorate almost every available space at Barnes Jewelry.

Window artists Roberta (Bobby) Jones-Wallace and Pattie Lundin are responsible for the wonderful window narrative vignettes. What started out as an experiment a few years ago has become a tradition with the new window exhibitions changed seasonally. Bobby and Pattie love to spark your inner-child when passing by. Kids love the windows of course. 

This would make a good addition to my vintage barware collection.

The Sleepy Rooster (420 N. Last Chance Gulch)

Sleepy Rooster is a vintage retail store with a large warehouse at the back. The front is full of home accessories and artifacts all carefully curated into charming vignettes.  We love scrounging around in the warehouse space looking for hidden treasures. 

The store is full of eclectic and eccentric offbeat items and we have the photos to prove it. Canadian Pickers (Sheldon and Scott) and American Pickers (Frank and Mike) would love this place.  The prices are fair and you don't have to travel the continent to find them. 

Did we say eccentric?

Did we say eclectic?

Here's a just a sample of some of the many treasures waiting to be taken home from the warehouse space.

A view of the Sleepy Rooster's large showroom.

Aunt Bonnie's Books (419 N. Last Chance Gulch)

Great streets always have a great bookstore - Helena has Aunt Bonnie's.  Like all good used bookstores, it is packed floor to ceiling with books of all genres. The thrill is in the hunt!  

On our recent visit, I was looking for what I thought would be a hard-to-find book "Wisdom Sits In Places," an academic book by Keith H. Basso published in 1996 by the University of New Mexico Press. When I asked if they might have it, I was directed to places where it might be if they had it, with the caveat "I doubt we have it! " After a bit of searching, there it was at the end of the middle shelf. I was shocked and so was the woman who helped me (not sure if it was Aunt Bonnie or not - forgot to ask).  

FYI - the store has a "no cell phone" policy which makes for a refreshing tranquility. 

The store front's window is very welcoming.

The store front's window is very welcoming.

I wasn't joking when I said the place is full of books. 

The Architecture & Art

Founded in 1864, Helena is the capital of Montana and as such, has a rich architectural history. While the state capitol building is impressive, the signature downtown buildings are two churches - one old, one new.  The main downtown street is named Last Chance Gulch in reference to the winding path of the original gulch (i.e. a valley created by water erosion) that the downtown was built around. 

There are many late 19th and early 20th century buildings in downtown, as well as contemporary new icons. 

The Saint Helena Cathedral, built in 1908. is an impressive sight as it overlooks the downtown. It is a beautiful and sacred place to explore.

Just down the hill from the St. Helena Cathedral is a large contemporary church that employs modern materials and design elements to make its modernist statement.

ExplorationWorks is Helena's hands-on interactive science centre for all ages.  It is part of a new urban village just north of downtown.  Here you will find a carousel, shops, cinemas, restaurants, condos, hotel and offices all with a modern design, yet with synergies to the historic downtown. 

Helena is proud of its vibrant arts scene that includes one of the oldest art walk programs in the country, the Holter Museum of Art, Archie Bray Foundation for Ceramic Arts, numerous commercial art galleries and a diverse performing arts community. 

Parrot Confectionary (42 N. Last Chance Gulch)

Parrot Confectionary was founded in 1922 and has become a Helena landmark.  This family-owned candy/soda/diner offers 130 different types of candies, including hand-made chocolates made on-site. They are also famous for their secret chili recipe, hand-made ice cream shakes and caramel cashew sundaes.  We had one of the best hot coco drinks ever on a cool autumn day.   

Like Barnes Jewelry, this place is like a museum with artifacts everywhere.

Drop in some coins and listen to some old time music while enjoying a shake. 

Just one of hundreds of tantelizing treats.  

Just one of hundreds of tantelizing treats. 

Where to Stay and Eat?

Helena offers all of the typical roadside chain hotels, but our favourite is the Red Lion Colonial Hotel that is literally just minutes off the highway and minutes from downtown, the Capitol Building district and other shopping.  

We love it unique, grand curved colonial stairway in the lobby. It is a pleasant surprise in the middle of the mountains. 

While the Red Lion has a nice restaurant, another favourite option of ours is Bullman's Woodfired Pizza (1130 Helena Ave, in the triangle created by Helena, Montana and Boulder Streets). This great family dining spot, doesn't look like much but the pizza and salads are very good. For example, the Bitterroot (all the pizza names have a link to the Montana's geography) has pistachios, red onion, rosemary, mozzarella cheese, olive oil and sea salt.  Wine selection here is very easy - red or white - but they do have some nice craft beers by the bottle. 

Red Lion Colonial Hotel's white grand staircase (28 steps) is charming and inviting. A great photo opportunity.

Red Lion Colonial Hotel's white grand staircase (28 steps) is charming and inviting. A great photo opportunity.

Denver's tallest office tower is transformed into an art gallery

By Richard White, April 30, 2014

"Scrounge" is a great name for an art exhibition, as most artists I know love to explore thrift and second hand stores, as well as rummage and garage sales "scrounging" for artifacts. I even know one artist who regularly roams the back alleys of his inner city community to see what he can find. Society's new mantra of "recycle, reuse and repurpose" is just beginning to catch-up with what visual artists have been doing for centuries.  

The Arts Brookfield's exhibition "Scrounge"  in the lobby and lower level of the 56-floor Republic Plaza office tower in downtown Denver is a very ambitious project.  Yes, lots of office building lobbies have public art and yes some even host exhibitions from time to time, but rarely do they have a curated exhibition with 26 different artists and over 100 works of art.  

The diversity and creativity of the art in this exhibition is impressive - everything from recycled clothing fabricated into weird and wacky figurative sculptures to robots made of household appliances.  While some of the works are modest, folk art-like pieces, several are major works of art. "Scrounge" is a fun, thought-provoking exhibition. 

One of the unique things about the visual arts is that you can take the experience home with you and live with it for years.  Too often public and private galleries make it very difficult find out if it is for sale and if so, the price.  Most of the art in "Scrounge" is for sale and a copy of the price list are easy to obtain from the office lobby. 

Unfortunately, the Republic Plaza's walls and lighting are not ideal for art. I don't understand why the interior design of office lobbies (and for that matter, public buildings like libraries, hospitals and courthouses too) aren't designed so they can better accommodate art exhibitions. In most cases, I expect it would be cheaper than the cost of fountains, gardens, trees and living walls. 

Here are some of our favourite artworks from "Scrounge," the exhibition continues until June 5, 2014 (8am to 6 pm, Monday to Friday).

The main floor lobby is filled with whimsical assemblages like this piece by Mark Friday that blur the boundaries between folk art, still life and sculpture.

The main floor lobby is filled with whimsical assemblages like this piece by Mark Friday that blur the boundaries between folk art, still life and sculpture.

Jimmy Descant is famous for his robots and spacemen made from household appliance parts.

Owen Gordon's "Waisting Time" is a quirky artwork that incorporates lots of pants, belts and a chair. 

Close-up of "Waisting Time."

The integration of numerials, mathematics and space travel is a recurring theme in the exhibition.

One of the highlights of the exhibition is a huge "Scrounge" exhibition title artwork in the lobby entrance with eight artists from the exhibition each creating one 4-foot letter. The letter "S" by Deborah Jang using an old traffic sign, spindles from a staircase and recycled wood. It employs a playful sense of line, pattern and shape. 

"Ducks in a Row" by Mario Rivoli is a very fun piece, but suffers from too much reflection off the glass and the distractions of the mottled wall.  Below is Rivoli's artist statement which is a fun read, capturing the spirit of many artists, not just those who work with recycled materials. 

artist's statement

I love the simplicity of Craig Robb's "Second Twilight" made of steel and rubber tubing. 

Bernice Strawn had several of these wood and metal simple figurative pieces (each piece had a hint of colour, either red or blue). I was very tempted to purchase one of these to add to my collection. 


Scrounge was a wonderful surprise as we flaneured the streets and buildings of downtown Denver.  We were just walking by on our way to Denver's Cultural Zone and the Art Museum when Brenda spotted the art though the lobby's large glass walls.  It turned out to be the highlight of our downtown Denver walkabout.

Kudos to Arts Brookfield for facilitating the exhibition.  I wish more Brookfield-owned offices would enlist in the program. (Arts Brookfield is a global initiative which engages communities by invigorating their public spaces through free, world-class cultural experiences.)

Let's hope Brookfield's new office tower, Brookfield Place in Calgary will have a purpose-built gallery at street level that will accommodate ongoing art exhibitions like "Scrounge."   I would also hope that Telus' new Sky Tower, also in Calgary would have a gallery/lobby space for exhibitions to animate the building and street seven days a week.

Kudos to Calgary's Eight Avenue Place which is currently using its lobby and +15 (second floor) retail spaces as an art gallery and event space in the same way as Denver's Republic Plaza.

If you like this blog, you might like:

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Flaneuring the Fringe: Sunalta / 11th Street SW

By Richard White, April 15, 2014

For Calgarians and tourists alike, exploring Calgary’s urban “street life” means all too often we head to the same places – 17th Avenue, Inglewood, 4th Street or Kensington, or maybe even the Design District or Stephen Avenue. This is the third of a three-part look at “street life” on the fringe of Calgary’s city centre.  Sunalta and 11th Street SW are hidden gems for people interested in urban exploring.


Sunalta is the community west of 14th Street SW, south of the CPR Tracks, east of Crowchild Trail and north of 17th Avenue SW. With the recent arrival of the LRT and their own station (10th Avenue and 16th Street) Sunalta has the potential to extend the boundaries of Calgary’s south side City Centre all the way to Crowchild Trail. The community is dominated by small walk-up apartments, condos and small businesses making it a good candidate to become Calgary's next urban village. It won’t be long before someone proposes a major high-rise development near the station.

Mikey’s Juke Joint & Eatery (1901 10th Ave SW)

You wouldn’t expect to find an authentic juke joint (a place for workers to relax, drink, dance and socialize in a ramshackle building at the outskirts of town) in Cowtown, but there it is, tucked hidden away next to the railway tracks and under the LRT skytrain and Crowchild / Bow Trail bridges.  The wooden floors have a rich spilled beer patina, the food is good (they make a great burger and the pulled pork sandwich is straight from the Delta) and the music is amazing.  The Saturday Jam with the Mike Clark Band should be on every blues lover’s “must do” list.  Tuesday night features Tim Williams who recently won the International Blues Competition for best “solo/duo” artist and best guitarist; he is also a great storyteller. Music is seven days a week here, twice on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Sentry Box (1835 - 10th Ave SW)

Across the street from Mikey’s the Sentry Box is over 13,000 square feet filled with over 46,000 different items - from military games to science fiction.  Their events calendar is packed with activities from Blood Bowl League to Dungeons & Dragon Encounters. I am always amazed at the constant stream of people in and out of this destination retailer.

Rubaiyat: Stained Glass Studio (1913 - 10th Street SW)

Did you know Rubaiyat has had a stained glass studio on 10th Ave SW since 1973? The studio is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday, selling glass to professional and hobby artists and meeting clients commissioning a custom architectural, religious and residential stained glass piece. When I checked it out one Saturday (before the Mikey’s Saturday afternoon jam), I was immediately astounded by the selection of hand-rolled, mouth-blown and machine sheet glass on display.  I was quickly welcomed and invited to wander around and take photos.  I love wandering artists’ studios and this is one of the biggest studios I have seen in a long time, and the cleanest!

Heritage Posters & Music (1502 - 11th Ave SW)

It’s been aptly described by one fan as a hippy, trippy bastion of pop culture history housed in a psychedelic garage.  The rustic store is brimming with vintage vinyl, new and out of print music, rare concert tour and gig posters, music photos, movie posters, and much more.  It's a groovy store with pop culture memorabilia galore. I dug it, man.”  Need I say more?

The new West LRT transit station in Sunalta.

The new West LRT transit station in Sunalta.

Mikey's one of several blues bars in Calgary's City Centre.

Sentry Box is Canada's largest adventure gaming and science fiction and fantasy bookstore.

Heritage Posters & Music's home is in fact in a heritage i.e. old wood warehouse building.  

Heritage Posters & Music's home is in fact in a heritage i.e. old wood warehouse building.  

Entrance to Rubaiyat Stained Glass Studio.

Entrance to Rubaiyat Stained Glass Studio.

Rubiayat studio.

Rubiayat studio.

Sunalta is full of surprises like Kingdom Hall and a huge Western Veterinary Emergency Center. 

11th Street Strip  

The 11th Street Strip extends just two blocks - from 15th Avenue north to 13th.  Unlike the areas, 11th Street is more hidden than fringe find.  The street is not only surrounded by high-rise condos that are very walkable to downtown, but it is inside the City’s south City Center boundaries. It also has urban elements other than just shops and cafes - a plaza on the southeast corner of 11th Street and 14th Avenue and the historic St. Stephen’s Anglican Church a half block east on 14th Ave Street make for an oasis in the middle of what is quickly becoming a sea of high-rise condos. 

Kalamata Grocery Store (1421 - 11th Street SW)

A great neighbourhood market specializing in Mediterranean/Middle Eastern groceries. How do they cram so much character into one little store? You have to taste the baklava! Best selection of olives in the city with over 30 varieties including the namesake, kalamata olives. 

Epiphanie Chocolate (1417B  -11th St SW)

Though Calgary has numerous chocolate shops, none is as quaint and authentic as Epiphanie, included as one of the best places to buy chocolate in Canada by Huffington Post in 2013.  It is like walking into a mini art gallery in a European village. You will definitely leave here with a smile on your face - and likely some chocolate too!

Galaxie Diner (1413 - 11th St SW)

Established in 1996, Galaxie was on the leading edge of Calgary’s retro diner mania.  It is frequented by locals for its authentic Montreal Smoked Meat hash and Calgary Sandwich.  Come hungry!

Good Earth Café  (1502 - 11th St SW)

The Good Earth Café has grown from this original flagship store into a western Canada franchise with 42 locations.  It is a popular meeting place especially for larger groups, as this is a large café with lots of comfy seating.   The name “café” is a bit misleading as it is more bistro than café with its many food options.  I have always loved their white chocolate scones.  

With The Times (1504 – 11th St SW)

Next door to Good Earth is “With the Times,” a magazine/newspaper shop that you can access directly from the café or the street.  How sweet is that! You can grab your New York Sunday Times, your favourite hot beverage and scone, and then settle in for a few hours reading and thinking.  It doesn’t get much better.  

11th Streets pocket park/plaza next to St. Stephen's Church and downtown offices in the background. 

"Bird of Spring" by Abraham Etungat, 1975, replica of a soapstone carving 14cm tall. 

"Bird of Spring" by Abraham Etungat, 1975, replica of a soapstone carving 14cm tall. 

Kalamata Grocery anchors the 11th Street Strip. 

Kalamata Grocery anchors the 11th Street Strip. 

Of course Kalmata has olives. 

Of course Kalmata has olives. 

1 1th Street's charming and colourful shop fronts. 

11th Street's charming and colourful shop fronts. 

Galaxie Diner continues the vintage charm of the block. 

Galaxie Diner continues the vintage charm of the block. 

Good Earth and With The Times are new kids on the block. 

Good Earth and With The Times are new kids on the block. 

Last Word

Urban living is characterized by communities with a diversity of housing options – single family, duplexes, townhouses and small and large condos. It is also defined by the diversity of transportation options i.e. you might walk to the café or yoga studio, cycle to the urban grocery store or recreation center, as well as walk, cycle or take transit to work. 

As Calgary expands outwards, so does its City Centre. No longer is it just Hillhurst/Sunnyside, downtown and the Beltline that offers urban living. This is the final chapter of three blogs that looked at flaneuring the fringes of Calgary's Center City see below for chapters one and two. 

If you like this blog, you might like:

Flaneuring the Fringe: 16th Avenue North   

Flaneuring the Fringe: 19th Street Northwest

Calgary's Newest Urban Village  

Footnotes: University of Arizona, Resort vs Research

By Richard White, April 10, 2014

One of the things we love to do when exploring a new city is to check out its university or college, especially if it is adjacent to downtown.  Experience has shown us that in most cases, you will find lots of urban vitality (pedestrians, cafes, galleries, shops, pubs, live music, etc) in and around urban post-secondary schools.

The University of Arizona in Tucson did not disappoint. In fact, it exceeded our expectations. What we thought might be a 3-hour morning flaneur turned out to be an all-day walkabout.

Visitor Center

As we entered the campus, we saw the  Visitor Center (yes, they have their own visitor center) and decided to drop in and see if they had a map and some suggestions for lesser known places to explore. Yes, I know flaneurs are supposed to just wander with no particular place to go.  

The front desk person was very helpful - at first, she pointed out all the obvious things to see and do - they even have a brochure "Things to Do at the U!"  However, when we asked for some hidden gems, she suggested the School of Pharmacy which has a museum of sorts spread out over two buildings and on various floors.  

Brenda, having read the College of Optical Sciences is the world's premier institute of its kind, asked if there were any displays of artifacts there. We were told there might be, but a good place to check out was the Flandrau Science Centre and Planetarium with its great mineral collection. We had also read that the Creative Photography Center had the largest collection of photographs in the world, so thought this might be a place to check out.

We ended up leaving the Visitor Center with a map with 12 places to check out.  The Museum of Art turned out to be a bit of a dud as there was an installation in progress and the gallery attendant wasn't clear what exhibitions were open to visitors. 

Across the street was the Photography Centre which was very interesting and free. It was too bad that we were the only people there.  Next, we headed to the Architecture and Landscape Architecture building next door. It was a bit more animated with students coming and going, as well as an exhibition of drawings and sculptures in the lobby. Exiting the building, we happened upon a wonderful garden oasis that is a serene setting to study or chat with a friend. 

Schaefer Poetry Center 

Aiming for what I thought was the Pottery Centre, turned out to the the Poetry Center (a case of middle-age eyes).  Glad for the misread.  It is one of only three such centers in North America, the others being in New York City and Chicago. 

The building has a wonderful soft light that makes for a great place to read, write and reflect. In fact, they have a residence as part of the center for visiting writers or special guests. Though it is a non-circulating library, the public is invited to read the books on site in the lovely indoor and outdoor reading areas.  In addition to the 70,000 poetry-related items in their collection, the Center also has an engaging exhibition of handmade artist's books by Alice Vinson. They even have a charming children's section with a huge blackboard inviting the kids to create their own poetry.  

This the kind of stuff we love to sniff out - art, architecture and ambience.  The Poetry Centre is definitely a hidden gem.

The Poetry Center's indoor/outdoor working spaces are separated by an intriguing two-story slanted wood and glass wall.

First of three examples from Alice Vinson's exhibition.

A single page from one of the books.

"Less Than" art book cover

Pharmacy Museum

Moving on, we quickly found the College of Pharmacy, but there were two buildings so we were unsure which one had the museum.  Luckily, there was an outdoor lunch event and we were able ask a staff member who told us there were lithographs on the second floor of one building and the museum in the other.  She tried to find us a self-guided tour booklet, but they didn't have any in the first building. 

With a couple of false turns and sneaking into a keyed door, we found the lithographs nicely displayed in a hallway. It turns out there was 40 lithos depicting the "Great Moments in Pharmacy." For more details, see photo below. 

We then wandered over to the other building and asked about the self-guided tour booklet. They didn't have any, but they kindly photocopied an electronic copy and off we went (persistence pays off).  There were major displays on all four floors, as well as lots of glass cabinet vignettes with themed artifacts in the hallways. The highlight was the 102-drawer wood pharmacy cabinet used in the '50s to store natural medicines (see photos below). 

Depending on your interest, you could easily spend an hour or more at this museum.  We can't believe it isn't in the "Things to Do at the U" brochure.

Louis Hebert was the first Canadian apothecary. He settled in Port Royal, Nova Scotia in 1605.

This is one of two walls lined with the "Great Moments in Pharmacy" lithographs. 

On one floor, there is a mock old time drug store that you can walk around and into.

The use of show globes (like this yellow glass one) dates back four centuries as a symbol of pharmaceutical and medical care. Sailors landing in English ports knew that a show globe in a store window meant medical treatment was available there.  In America, a red show globe could mean the town had some kind of quarantine or disease while a green one indicated the town was healthy.  Dick Wiedhopf, Curator, History of Pharmacy Museum, informed us in an email that "pharmacists took great pride in creating colours for their show globes. There are several books on how to make these colours, but today we use common food colouring. The yellow colour has not meaning, other than it is attractive." 

One can only wonder what pharmacists used poisons for in the 19th century.

Homeopathic medicines such as Humphreys Specifics were common in drugstore windows at the turn of the century.  Customers ordered by the number printed on the display box. 

During the 19th century, pharmacies were places to meet and socialize.  In addition to medical care, in the past drugstores have offered everything from pinball to punchboard games (like the one above) to entertain and attract customers.  Ironically, we purchased a game similar to this one for $5 in a Las Vegas Goodwill a week earlier. 

On the fourth floor elevator lobby is a 102-drawer '50s cabinet filled with natural plant and mineral products along with vintage medicinal bottles and fascinating details about how natural products were used. Note: the cabinet is located next to the College's modern natural products lab. 

The doors pull out and then swing open. 

Each file is full of artifacts and information.  Brenda wanted to take one home.

Just one of hundreds of artifacts that document the evolution of pharmacy over the past two centuries. 

The Resort Campus

Then it was off for some lunch at the Student Union Building to hang out with the students.  It was abuzz with students, dressed and acting like they were at the beach - tank tops, short shorts and flip flops (it was +30 Celsius). The campus is full of outdoor patio seating with shade umbrellas that enhance the resort ambience.  The only thing missing was the beach and pool. The campus has a huge pedestrian mall with thousands of students walking, biking and hanging out. The animation reminded us Frankfurt's green beach and Calgary's downtown Stephen Avenue Walk on a hot day.

It had the best campus buzz I have every experienced. I would also have to say it has the most active bike culture I have seen to date including Portland, Oregon. 

Just one of many resort-like seating areas.

The central pedestrian mall is a beehive of people moving from building to building. With the palm trees and sand, the only thing missing is the water. Students had set up three slack lines that made for a circus-like atmosphere. The UofA's Central Mall is the Champs-Elysees of university campuses. 

This is the penthouse study area in the College of Optical Sciences building. 

Cycling is a popular mode of transportation on the UofA campus.  The bike racks, like these ones on the central mall are well used. 

Museum of Optics (MOO)

Founded in 1964, The College of Optical Sciences (OSC) located in the Meinel Optical Sciences building is the world's premier institute of optics - three faculty members have won a Nobel Prize. The MOO was established in 2011 but the college started the collection in 2003. Today, it holds more than 700 antique and historic instruments, some built as long ago as the 1700s. 

MOO also has a self-guided handout.  Fortunately, they aren't too hard to find; just look for the display rack on the ground level lobby.  The tour starts here, directing you to go up to the eighth floor and work your way down. 

The building not only has a cache of optical instruments that includes telescopes, microscopes, binoculars, sextants, eyewear and opera glasses, but a penthouse lounge with the best view of the campus (see photo above.)  

Sculpture  by Don Cowen from a block of unannealed pyrex; portion of a pour by Corning Glass works, circa 1935.  

A close up look into the "Desert Flower" glass sculpture in the lobby.

There is an entire display cabinet of glass crystal.

The "Sphere" sculpture in the lobby captures what is happening outside on the mall and inverts it to the viewer.

A few of hundreds of binoculars in the collection.

Who knew there were so many different opera glasses?

Just one of several vintage camera and camera accessory display cases.

This telescope, made by Italian Domenico Selva Venezia in 1710, is believed to be one of the oldest telescopes in the world. 

The six-story window well that brings light into the lobby of the building creates a futuristic, periscope-like space.

The six-story window well that brings light into the lobby of the building creates a futuristic, periscope-like space.


Pretty much every major city has a history museum, a science centre, a museum of art and a garden of some sort, but how many have a Poetry Centre, Museum of Pharmacy or Museum of Optics?  

In hindsight, I wish we had spent 30 minutes reading and trying to write some poetry as I felt the Poetry Center had an inspirational vibe. The same could be said for the Architecture & Landscape Architecture garden. 

I have toured a lot of post-secondary campuses over the years and would have to say the University of Arizona's campus was one of the most interesting with its animated, resort-like student areas contrasting with its quiet, contemplative research spaces.  A perfect concoction!

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Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West: A Phoenix Must See

By Richard White, April 9, 2014

Frank Lloyd Wright once referred to himself as the “world’s greatest architect.”  While that might be a bit of an exaggeration, after our recent tour of Taliesin West, Wright's winter home in Phoenix, I am more impressed than ever with his timeless design and ability to integrate his structures with nature.

Frank Lloyd Wright 101

Wright was born in 1867 and died, at the age of 91, in 1959.  He dropped out of university without completing a degree and decided to move to Chicago in 1887.  Chicago was booming in the late 1880s, as the city was rebuilding after the devastating fire of 1871.  He first worked as a draftsman with the Joseph Lyman Silsbee architectural firm, later moving to the firm Adler & Sullivan where Louis Sullivan became his mentor. He first came to Phoenix in 1927 to be an advisor on the Biltmore Hotel. 

After the stock market crash of 1929, architectural projects dried up so he established an architectural school in 1932, in Spring Green Wisconsin, to help keep his architectural practice alive.

In 1937, he returned to Phoenix with his wife, two children and 22 apprentices to create a winter campus for his architecture school in the desert.  He purchased 160 acres of wilderness with no access road, no electricity and no water as his site to realize his vision of creating a place where architecture and nature could co-exist.

He called it Taliesin, which means “shining brow” in reference to fact the site chosen was at the brow of the mountain. As well, the site is on the west facing mountain slope that shimmers in the winter sun.

He, his family and the apprentices lived in shepherd tents on the land while they built roads, wells and started construction of  the school.  

The walls of the buildings are made from local rock mixed with cement on site making the buildings look like they grew out of the ground. This concept is further enhanced by the fact that there is no need for a foundation in the desert so the buildings literally sit on the land.

Wright's design was inspire by the shepherd tent i.e. canvas roofs, and canvas flaps to cover windows instead of using glass. The design maximized the use of the winter sun by positioning the buildings, rooflines and materials to minimize the need for lighting, heating and cooling. Wright was utilizing LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environment Design) principles 100 years ahead of their widespread adoption by the development industry. 

Over the ensuing years, Wright acquired over 500 acres, thus ensuring the campus would maintain its sense of wilderness. Today, Taliesin West is the winter campus for an accredited university with just 20+ students enrolled in either a Master of Architecture program or a 3-month Immersion Program. An interesting side note, even today, students spend live in huts and tents in the wilderness on campus.

Wright believed in an integrated design approach that linked exterior, interior and landscape design. And in many cases, he chose the furniture and the art for his clients' homes as well. We were told he loved to experiment with new materials. For example, when plywood came out, he quickly used it to create chairs.

Believing in hands-on teaching, students were involved in the design, construction and over the years, also renovation of the Taliesin West campus buildings' exteriors, interiors and landscaping.  

Wright was an inventor who, to his own detriment, didn’t patent any of his ideas (Note: this is what our tour guide told us, we have since been informed by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation that he did indeed patent some of his designs).  He hated the light bulb so he hid them in the roof beams like pot lights.  In his cabaret room, he didn’t want wall or overhead lighting so he created floor and aisle lights which today are used in all theatres and airplanes.

This is the petroglyph rock that Wright found on his property and had moved to Taliesin West.  He adopted the icon second from the left as his logo.

A sample of the stone walls made of rock and cement used to construct all of the buildings at Taliesin West. 

A close-up of a rock wall which is like a still life painting. 

An example of one of the tents that students live in while there.

The Tour

After a quick history lesson and tour of Wright’s business office, we finally got to look at the elegant, elongated single-story house. There is a tranquility and beauty not only its design but in the gardens, lawn and swimming pool (now just decorative) and how it all fits naturally with the mountains and the valley. 

We enter the house through a small door that is tucked away out of sight – Wright was not a big fan of grand entrances.  We find ourselves in the living room (Wright referred to it as his garden room).  Given the abundant windows, you definitely feel like you are outside. The unique canvas roof allows for a soft filtered light to permeate the room.  The room is filled with about a dozen of his plywood framed chairs, with cushioned bench seating on the perimeter. Though the room could easily accommodate 50+ people, it has a very intimate.

Unlike other house tours, we were encouraged to sit in the chairs. This was an experience as the chair's seat is so low your knees are above your waist. Wright thought this was the healthiest way to sit. 

Next, we visited the two sitting rooms. Wright’s wife’s sitting room was furnished with a small bed and desk overlooking the garden. Next to it was Wright's room with two beds (one for napping in the afternoon), a large desk, fireplace and also a great view of the garden. He even had his own small, but functional and futuristic (the walls were made of redwood wrapped in aluminum) looking bathroom. 

Then it was off to the movie room which could also be used for lectures and presentations. He had a state-of-the-art projector installed as he loved movies.  Another side note; His granddaughter was actress Anne Baxter who was able to get him uncut versions of Hollywood movies, some could be as long as 12 hours.  

We were then lead out to the north side of the campus and over to the Heloise Crista outdoor sculpture plaza. Crista first came to Taliesin West to study philosophy and architecture in 1949. However, she spent most of her time involved in the Taliesin West Music and Dance Festival.  It wasn’t until 1978 that she decided to pursue becoming a sculptor.  She is now exhibits her work around the world. LIke her, many other former students have homes at Taliesin West - it has become a sacred place for them.

The final tour stop was at the cabaret, an intimate 100-seat performance space that has near perfect acoustics despite the walls being made of rock. Wright was well schooled on principles of acoustic designing by his mentor Sullivan.

The Business Office as seen from the plaza.

The Frank Lloyd Wright house with pool and front lawn looks more like a resort than a home.  It is a good example of Prairie Modernism design with its flat roof, strong horizontal lines and broad overhanging eaves.  This school of architecture was inspired by the strong horizontal horizon line and the flatness of the prairie landscape. 

Another view of the Frank Lloyd Wright house. Wright described his style as "organic architecture" as it was inspired by the land and materials that surrounded the building site. He was not interested in European architecture; his vision was to create an indigenous North American style of architecture. 

The living room (or the garden room) has strong horizontal lines and big windows that link the inside with the outside. Though we were told we couldn't take photos inside the house, I found this image and the next image on the internet. 

One of Wright's signature chairs.

Decorative roof structures serve like tent poles for the canvas roof. 

The decorative hidden lights. Wright was not a big fan of electricity and lighting, but eventually gave in. 

Playful shutters that can be opened or closed as needed for light and temperature control.

Heloise Crista's sculpture garden.

The large dining room for the campus is very modern with its floor to ceiling windows.  While Wright was not a big fan of glass initially, when he did decide to add it to Taliesin West, he did so in an innovative manner by moving the structural posts away from the corners creating better views of the gardens and mountains.  This unpatented technique of frameless glass corners is now popular in contemporary home showers. 

The Cabaret room was designed to allow for flexible seating, near perfect sight lines and great acoustics. Wright owned nine pianos and if hadn't become an architect he would have chosen to be a  concert pianist. The ceiling twinkle lights were added after his death by his wife who thought they reminded her the night stars in the desert. 


Our 90-minute tour was engaging, educational and entertaining - all of the things we look for in a tour. Our tour guide didn’t use many technical terms, but focused more on theman, the history of the campus and the architecture.  If you are in Phoenix and are at all interested in design, we highly recommend the Taliesin West tour. 

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Desert Botanical Garden: Right Place, Right Time

Brenda White, April 3, 2014

It all started when I hopped off the Red Lion (Tempe's) shuttle bus at Phoenix's Desert Botanical Garden (DBG) entrance at 9:15 am.  

Dollar off coupon in hand, I was expecting to get in for $19 and had my money ready.  Except, I was intercepted by a ticket scalper of sorts, who turned out to be a mid-50s, university women's group member who had an extra ticket as one member couldn't make it. She was willing to sell me the extra ticket for $12. I was a bit hesitant so I asked if I could go in with the group and pay her once inside - she agreed.  All went smoothly, so I paid her $12 and pocketed the other $7. Right place; right time. I was invited to join the group for their tour, but chose to say "goodbye" to my new university friends and went off on my merry way. 

It was quiet even though the garden opened at 8 am and I was quickly (and nicely) intercepted by a DBG volunteer who graciously offered to advise me on how to best make use of my two hours (I had arranged for a shuttle to pick-up at 11:30). She told me what loops to take and to make sure I went to all of the sculpture icons on the map as they indicated the location of the Chihuly glass sculptures. Again, right place; right time.

Dale Chihuly is one of the world's best known glass artists. He has one permanent artwork in the garden from his previous exhibition at DBG but I was fortunate to arrive while his second exhibition of 20 new works was on (it closes May 18, 2014).  Chihuly's large scale, neon-like abstract sculptures are definitely inspired by the colour and shape of the many different cacti and wild flowers in the gardens.  The synergy between art and nature was amazing. Once again, I was in the right place, at the right time. 

For one who has suffered from a lifelong case of being navigationally challenged, I impressed myself with not getting lost amongst the many loops and trails in the 140-acre garden site, luckily only 55-acres are in use for the trails. The reason - great signage and an insider tip from a stranger to always look for the paved path.  She said, "the paved path is the main one, so always default to if you lose your way."  The gravel paths are not long and are circular so just keep going and you "hit" pavement again. For a fourth time, right place; right time. 

I was also told by another local that early April is probably the best time to come as many of the wild flowers and cacti are in bloom.  Early morning is also the best time to visit, as it is cooler, less windy and fewer people. I also lucked out that the weather the day I chose was warm and sunny with almost no wind (that is not always the case I was told). Right place; right time.

I felt a little silly taking 150+ photos but it just seemed everywhere I turned, I was in the right place at the right time to capture the interplay of the intense colour, the early morning light, and shadows that make the garden so special.  I have never taken 150 pictures in one month let alone one day in my life.  

Here are a few of my favourite photos.  Now I will focus my attention on finding a funky $7 Spring Break 2014 road trip souvenir - hopefully I can be in the right place, at the right time again.    

desert red flower.jpg

Chihuly: Abstracting from nature

desert yellow flower close up.jpg

Confessions of a Public Art Juror

By Richard White, March 16, 2014

Recently, I was involved in a jury for a major public artwork (budget $500,0000+) being commissioned by the City of Calgary. Though I am not at liberty to give specifics, I thought EDT readers would be interested in knowing what happens when a City of Calgary public art jury is sequestered for a day to choose a public artwork.

Of the 17 people I counted involved in the jurying process, six had votes; the others consisted of eight engineers and three from the City of Calgary’s Public Art office.  The engineers were there to provide the jurors with technical information as need and to ask questions of the artists regarding installation and maintenance.

Of the sic voting members, there were three people from Calgary’s arts community, one from the City and one “shared” vote from the community (there were actually two community representatives, as the site linked two different communities, but their scores were combined to create one vote between them). 

This meeting followed one held in Fall 2013, when the same jurors reviewed over 50+ submissions from which three artists were chosen to present concepts for the site.  If memory serves me correctly, we were unanimous in our decision on the three short-listed artists.

Given the recent controversy over the Travelling Light (aka Blue Circle) sculpture on the Airport Trail Bridge, I think we were all very anxious about ensuring we chose the right work (whatever “right” means).  While all juries discuss the public accessibility of the work being considered, in this case there was a heightened awareness that this piece had to have widespread public appeal while still having artistic integrity.