Call me crazy but I have always thought contemporary public art could make great playground equipment. From time to time I have seen children interacting with public art by climbing, sitting and sliding on it. Imagine if “Wonderland (aka the big white head)” on the plaza of the Bow Tower was part of a playground and people could climb up and over it. Now that would be exciting public art!
I have talked to some artists and playground designers about my idea of commissioning public art for playgrounds across the city, but always got shot down by them saying, “it would be too expensive and time consuming to get it approved from a safety perspective.”
Until this past Sunday I didn’t realize Calgary already has a wonderful piece of public art that also serves as a playground. “By the Banks of the Bow” is a giant artwork that includes 15 horses and two cowboys, located in a small park in front of the Agrium Western Event Centre. In the past I have seen families interacting with the piece, but it was nothing like I experienced this year on Family Day at the Stampede.
People of all ages and backgrounds were swarming around what is one of the largest bronze sculptures in North America. Kudos to the Stampede for not posting signs everywhere saying don’t climb on the sculpture or a fence around keeping people out.
By the Banks of the Bow 101 (Stampede website)
“By the Banks of the Bow celebrates one of mankind’s greatest living treasures; its wildness and spirit, strength, speed and dependability. It supported the people of the First Nations, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, farmers, town folk, prospectors and adventurers, cowboys and ranchers.
Today the horse retains a pride of place in the Calgary Stampede. In rodeo, the chuckwagon races, the heavy horse competitions or in the show ring, the horse is as iconic as the Stampede itself and is woven into its cultural fabric.
Created by local artists and ranchers Bob Spaith and Rich Roenisch, By the Banks of the Bow is a narrative in bronze that depicts our past, present and future, and reflects the Stampede’s many relationships with our community.”
- From inspiration to installation, the sculpture took four years to complete.
- The piece was cast in a foundry in Kalispell, Montana.
- Ten of the horses represented actually competed at the Calgary Stampede Rodeo.
- The lead cowboy, Clem Gardner, was the Canadian All Around champion in the first Calgary Stampede Rodeo in 1912.
- The total sculpture weighs approximately 14,500 pounds (seven tons).
It is too bad this type of public art, i.e. art that invites you to interact with it, stop and take pictures of it, isn’t more prevalent in Calgary and elsewhere.
I also noticed this week the big bronze sculpture of “Outlaw,” the Calgary Stampede’s iconic bull is back on the plaza of 5th Avenue Place but with a big sign saying don’t climb on it. Too bad…a missed opportunity to add some fun to the downtown experience!
Hmmm…I wonder how I might get some playground public art for Phase two of Grand Trunk Park. The kids would love it!