Everyday Tourist 2017 Retrospective: Fun Flaneur Finds

For most people the new year, is a time to reflect on what has happen over the past year and what they would like to happen over the next.  For me it is a time to edit the 20,000+ photos I have taken this year and decide which ones to keep. 

  Flaneuring Footsteps, Calgary

Flaneuring Footsteps, Calgary

It is also time to ponder what were my best experiences, adventures and discoveries? What was the best art gallery, art exhibition, artwork or architecture I experienced? Should I create albums of the best pieces of public art, best street art, buildings or street photos?

After much reflection, I decided the life of an everyday flaneur isn’t about the “best of” it is about surprises, chance encounters and the thrill of the unexpected. 

As a result this photo essay while in chronological oder is a hodgepodge of fun flaneur finds discovered over the past year wandering with my eyes and mind wide open. I hope you enjoy....

  Yoga bound, Calgary

Yoga bound, Calgary

  Strawberry Dancers / Watermelon Mountains, Calgary

Strawberry Dancers / Watermelon Mountains, Calgary

  Keys, Calgary

Keys, Calgary

  Night Rider, Calgary

Night Rider, Calgary

  Tree of Life, Berlin

Tree of Life, Berlin

  Shopping Vortex, Berlin

Shopping Vortex, Berlin

  Circus architecture, Berlin

Circus architecture, Berlin

  Giant Red Tops, Berlin

Giant Red Tops, Berlin

  Bitte Please, Berlin

Bitte Please, Berlin

  Pedestrian, Berlin

Pedestrian, Berlin

 Mannie, Berlin

Mannie, Berlin

  Street Furniture, Berlin

Street Furniture, Berlin

  Recycling Igloos, Berlin

Recycling Igloos, Berlin

  Notes, Berlin  (Discovered these poems taped to a pedestrian bridge in Kreuzberg, Berlin late one afternoon.)

Notes, Berlin (Discovered these poems taped to a pedestrian bridge in Kreuzberg, Berlin late one afternoon.)

 Magritte Lives, Berlin

Magritte Lives, Berlin

  No Entrance/No Exit, Berlin

No Entrance/No Exit, Berlin

  11 disciples, Berlin

11 disciples, Berlin

  Molecules, Berlin

Molecules, Berlin

  Treasure Hunters' Paradise, Berlin

Treasure Hunters' Paradise, Berlin

  KaDeWe Smile, Berlin

KaDeWe Smile, Berlin

  Green Eye, Berlin

Green Eye, Berlin

  Confession, Berlin

Confession, Berlin

 Word Search, Berlin

Word Search, Berlin

 Fun School, Berlin

Fun School, Berlin

  Mystery Box, Berlin

Mystery Box, Berlin

  Stripes & Checks, Berlin

Stripes & Checks, Berlin

  Eye Candy, Berlin

Eye Candy, Berlin

  Hommage to Don Cherry, Berlin

Hommage to Don Cherry, Berlin

 Hungry, Berlin

Hungry, Berlin

  Living Room, Berlin

Living Room, Berlin

 Escher & Alexa, Berlin

Escher & Alexa, Berlin

   Happy Bunnies, Leipzig

 Happy Bunnies, Leipzig

  Red River, Leipzig

Red River, Leipzig

  Snail's Pace, Leipzig  (Backstory: The snail on the handle of the historic Leipzig City Hall was placed there by a local craftsman to represents how slowly things move at City Hall )

Snail's Pace, Leipzig (Backstory: The snail on the handle of the historic Leipzig City Hall was placed there by a local craftsman to represents how slowly things move at City Hall)

  Three Sisters, Leipzig

Three Sisters, Leipzig

  Not armed and not dangerous, Leipzig

Not armed and not dangerous, Leipzig

  Dare To Be Different, Leipzig

Dare To Be Different, Leipzig

  Street Talk, Leipzig

Street Talk, Leipzig

  Couple, Leipzig

Couple, Leipzig

  Inside! Leipzig

Inside! Leipzig

  Special, Leipzig

Special, Leipzig

  Peaceful Revolution, Leipzig

Peaceful Revolution, Leipzig

  Follow Through, Leipzig

Follow Through, Leipzig

  Partners, Leipzig

Partners, Leipzig

  Door Handle as Art, Leipzig

Door Handle as Art, Leipzig

  No parking, Leipzig

No parking, Leipzig

  Strings Attached, Leipzig

Strings Attached, Leipzig

  Brutal Beauty, London, ON

Brutal Beauty, London, ON

  Dressing Up!, London, ON

Dressing Up!, London, ON

  Playful, Hamilton

Playful, Hamilton

  Perspective, Calgary

Perspective, Calgary

  Windows, Calgary

Windows, Calgary

  Street Party, Calgary

Street Party, Calgary

  Dance with me! Calgary

Dance with me! Calgary

  My old backyard, Gleichen

My old backyard, Gleichen

  Remnants, Sisika

Remnants, Sisika

  Waiting, Calgary

Waiting, Calgary

  Edge, Head Smash-in Buffalo Jump

Edge, Head Smash-in Buffalo Jump

  Hooped, Canmore

Hooped, Canmore

 Really, Olds

Really, Olds

 Blast From The Past, Olds

Blast From The Past, Olds

 Statement, Calgary 

Statement, Calgary 

  Upsized, Calgary

Upsized, Calgary

  Too Much Information, Calgary

Too Much Information, Calgary

  Musical Stairs, Calgary

Musical Stairs, Calgary

  Legs & Pillars, Calgary

Legs & Pillars, Calgary

 Dataport, Medicine Hat

Dataport, Medicine Hat

  Love, Calgary

Love, Calgary

  Rainbow, Calgary

Rainbow, Calgary

  Buried, Canmore

Buried, Canmore

  Happy Hour, Calgary

Happy Hour, Calgary

 Elizabeth, Calgary

Elizabeth, Calgary

  Failure, Calgary

Failure, Calgary

  Stanley Guitar, Nashville

Stanley Guitar, Nashville

 Oxymoron, Nashville

Oxymoron, Nashville

  Euphony, Nashville

Euphony, Nashville

  Pick-up Sticks, Nashville

Pick-up Sticks, Nashville

  Bus Rider, Nashville

Bus Rider, Nashville

  Wisedom, Mesa

Wisedom, Mesa

  Trophies, Calgary

Trophies, Calgary

  Alone, Calgary

Alone, Calgary

  Outer Space, Palm Springs

Outer Space, Palm Springs

 Creative Space, Palm Springs

Creative Space, Palm Springs

  Yard Art, Palm Springs

Yard Art, Palm Springs

  Hippy Mask, Palm Springs

Hippy Mask, Palm Springs

 Whimsical, Palm Springs

Whimsical, Palm Springs

 Corner, Palm Springs

Corner, Palm Springs

  Blue Bird, Calgary

Blue Bird, Calgary

  Juxtaposition, Calgary

Juxtaposition, Calgary

 Twisted, Calgary

Twisted, Calgary

  Fire, Calgary

Fire, Calgary

 Pathways, Calgary

Pathways, Calgary

Thanks for scrolling to the end. 

All the best in 2018. 

Music Cities: Nashville vs Calgary

Great cities have signature streets that reflect the soul of the city. In Nashville (aka Music City), its signature street is Lower Broadway (from 1st to 5th Avenue S) where 25+ honky tonk bars offer free live music (no cover charge, no tickets) from 10 am to 3 am every day.

Lower Broadway “shouts out” Nashville is a Music City!
  Lower Broadway by week day!

Lower Broadway by week day!

  Lower Broadway by week night!

Lower Broadway by week night!

Music Every Day!

  After work fun!

After work fun!

Yes, 365 days of the year you can stroll Lower Broadway and listen to music from the street (stages are at the street windows; and windows are almost always open).

Or, wander in and out of the bars at your leisure to have a drink and listen to music.  I have not encountered anything like it in any other city including Memphis’ famous Beale Street and Austin’s 6th Street. 

But for a music purist, it is not the greatest place to listen to music as the bands are playing almost on top of each other and the audiences (those inside and those strolling by outside) are talking and socializing more than listening.

But there is no denying it is an “Experience.”

Musician Sweat Shop

What was most alarming was to learn the bands (and they are generally very good experienced musicians) are playing only for tips. I was told by several local musicians that on a good night, the late night band members might make $300 each (includes tips and CD sales), while those in the late morning and afternoon might make $100 or $150 each for about 5 hours of non-stop playing.  Most of the musicians are lucky if they get one or two gigs a week.

Given the heat and humidity I experienced in Nashville in the middle of October, I can only imagine what it must be like playing Lower Broadway during their long hot, humid summers. 

It was disturbing to me that Nashville’s Lower Broadway is in many ways a “sweat shop,” with bar owners raking in the money from beverage and food sales, while the musicians work for minimum wage in harsh conditions. 

I am told on good authority that if the musicians complained, the bar owner would simply find someone else - there being over 20,000 aspiring musicians, singers and songwriters living in Nashville waiting for an opportunity to play on Lower Broadway.

  Eskimo Brothers must have been exhausted after their very entertaining and energetic performance at Layla's on lower Broadway.

Eskimo Brothers must have been exhausted after their very entertaining and energetic performance at Layla's on lower Broadway.

Street Photographer Heaven

In addition to the music, Lower Broadway is a fun place to people watch.

Though a grittier version of The Strip in Vegas, it is not without it own glitz and glitter. The sequined clothing, boots and hats make for some unique fashion statements.

It is a popular destination for bachelorette parties - hundreds of young ladies arrive on Thursday and leave on Sunday.  

You often hear them before you see them, as they seem to love to hoot and holler as they meander the streets on “pedal taverns” i.e. bars on wheels that use pedal power to move along the street.   

They are in full party mode, love to say “Hi” as hey pass by and are not camera shy.

  Pedal Taverns like this one are popular not only on Lower Broadway but throughout the City Centre. 

Pedal Taverns like this one are popular not only on Lower Broadway but throughout the City Centre. 

  Every picture tells a story...I wonder what the story is here?

Every picture tells a story...I wonder what the story is here?

  Nashville is more than just live music, it also has a plethora of museums, musical instrument, books and record stores, as well as recording studios, music publishers and managers.  Even on a Monday morning, Nashville's Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum is busy with hundreds of visitors. 

Nashville is more than just live music, it also has a plethora of museums, musical instrument, books and record stores, as well as recording studios, music publishers and managers.  Even on a Monday morning, Nashville's Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum is busy with hundreds of visitors. 

Hallelujah at the Ryman

Just off Lower Broadway sits the Ryman Auditorium, first known as the Union Gospel Tabernacle (1892), then becoming the home of the Grande Ole Opry House (1943 to 1974).  It was vacant for almost 20 years before Emmylou Harris, in 1991, performed 3 concerts in the then dilapidated building (while the auditorium’s capacity is over 2,000, her concerts were limited to 200 people). Harris’ concerts spearheaded a movement to restore the building. By 1993, renovations began, converting it into a world-class concert hall, while retaining as much of the historical architecture as possible, including all the original oak pews. 

It is true to its moniker, i.e. the Ryman Auditorium is the mother church of country music.

  Ryman tours allow you to explore the building which is home to many artifacts, displays and photo ops. 

Ryman tours allow you to explore the building which is home to many artifacts, displays and photo ops. 

The Ryman offers daily back stage tours, which I highly recommend. 

In the evening, the auditorium hosts concerts by various headliners, which I would also highly recommend.

Many describe it as a religious experience and I can believe that.

While we were there, local Americana singer songwriter Jason Isbell was performing several nights but all were sold out.  However, we decided to check just before show time to see if they might have any tickets and were lucky to get seats just 10 rows from the stage.  We didn’t know who Isbell was, but the crowd sure did. The young people in front of us were singing along with him like they were gospel singers at church on Sunday.  There was more than one standing ovation in the middle of the concert not just the end. 

I was half expecting some Hallelujahs at the end.  
  Jason Isbell performing at Ryman Auditorium.

Jason Isbell performing at Ryman Auditorium.

Off (Off) Lower Broadway

For a better music experience, I suggest heading off Lower Broadway.  The Sunday Night Bluegrass Jam at the Station Inn in The Gulch is definitely worth checking out – note the line up starts an hour before the 7 pm start. The Bourbon Street Boogie Bar in Printer’s Alley and 3rd & Lindsley also have curated music programs that are highly respected. 

Personally, I also enjoyed the bands at Barlines in the Omni Hotel.  They played lots of cover tunes to an attentive audience and there is lots of room for dancing if that is your thing.  The beer is better than Lower Broadway too…my favourite being Nashville’s own Jackalope’s Bearwalker Maple Brown Ale. 

If you go even further “off, off” Lower Broadway, Douglas Corner Bar is an interesting spot.  The music is a bit hit and miss, so do your research, but the space and sound is great.  We happened upon a fun wedding party concert that was open to the public.  The band, Yo’ Mama featured Jonell Mosser (who has done back up vocals for the likes of B.B. King, Etta James, Waylon Jennings and Bruce Cockburn to name a few) along with Cathy Stamps and Kathy Mac.  Mosser has great pipes and all had great stories from their university days back in the ‘70s – well worth the $10 cover for the 2-hour concert.

  Every Sunday night people line up to get into the Bluegrass Jam at the Station Inn in Nashville's Gulch district, their equivalent to Calgary's East Village.  

Every Sunday night people line up to get into the Bluegrass Jam at the Station Inn in Nashville's Gulch district, their equivalent to Calgary's East Village.  

Music Mile Madness

Suffice to say Calgary, we have a long, long way to go before we can legitimately call ourselves a music city.  Music personifies the city of Nashville; it is infused into its everyday life. Guitar stores in Nashville are as common as bike shops are in Calgary.

  Nashville's 16th Ave South aka Music Row is lined with music related businesses including managers, marketing and publishing. 

Nashville's 16th Ave South aka Music Row is lined with music related businesses including managers, marketing and publishing. 

What makes Nashville a “music city” is the army of music-makers, a supportive audience, a diversity of live music venues and a sense of competition to discover and be discovered.  

In the same way as Calgary has an army of engineers and geologists looking to discover the next oil and gas reserve.

  Nashville has dozens of specialty shops like Manuel Couture Clothing & Accessories that focus on fashions for musicians. 

Nashville has dozens of specialty shops like Manuel Couture Clothing & Accessories that focus on fashions for musicians. 

Studio Bell is nice, but the heart and soul of any good music city lies in its live local music venues and audience, not its museums.  

  Ironwood Stage & Grill along with Blues Can and Festival Hall and numerous old houses and apartments make Inglewood and its sister community Ramsay an ideal place for artists to work, live and play.  

Ironwood Stage & Grill along with Blues Can and Festival Hall and numerous old houses and apartments make Inglewood and its sister community Ramsay an ideal place for artists to work, live and play. 

While some have tried to brand 9th Avenue (between the National Music Centre and the Blues Can) as the Music Mile”, the concept is premature and misleading in my mind. 

In reality, only two venues along that stretch provide live music seven days a week – Blues Can and Ironwood Bar & Grill

What would make more sense would be to foster Inglewood as a Music (or artist’s) Village - a place where musicians live, work and play.  A place filled with private live music venues, record stores and recording studios.  

Inglewood need to create affordable housing for artists in the community, not just upscale condos and infills.
  Recordland in Inglewood is home to one of the largest collections of used records in North America. 

Recordland in Inglewood is home to one of the largest collections of used records in North America. 

Not Nashville North

In the past, Calgary has been called Nashville North, but today Calgary is nothing like Nashville - historically, culturally or economically.

Calgary has some great music festivals, but it is what happens in the non-festival periods that is  critical to creating a 365-day musical buzz.

We should be determining how we make the Calgary Folk Festival’s Festival Hall in Inglewood, new King Eddy in East Village, new Big Four Roadhouse at Stampede Park and the Palace Theatre on Stephen Avenue sing every night of the week.  

And, how can we capitalize on Studio Bell’s incredible collection of musical instruments as a catalyst for making Calgary a must place for musicians to record. We need to attract musicians from across Canada to come to Calgary to play and make music. It is not about building a new Saddledome for mega concerts. 

If Calgary really wants to stand out in the music world, it must invite and integrate the music of Calgary’s diverse ethnic communities. We have to go beyond classical, country, blues, rock and roots. We must go beyond City Centre bars, pubs and coffee houses. We must foster what is happening in community centres, and churches in the suburbs.

One of the things we learned from Nashville’s museums is that music is a collaborative, grassroots process and the best music comes from the fusion of different genres of music. A good example of this would be Calgary's Sled Island Festival that happens every June and has become one of Calgary's signature festivals.

We also learned great music was not created by iconic public buildings, meaningless government policies and white papers, or by politicians, but by passionate individuals willing to risk everything to make music and to see and hear things in new ways.  

Link: Alberta Music Cities Initiative

Question?

Does Calgary’s have the music mavericks who can transform our City into a music city?  

Joane Cardinal-Schubert: The Writing on the Wall

If you go to one Calgary art exhibition this fall, I recommend the Joane Cardinal-Schubert exhibition at the Nickle Galleries in the Taylor Family Digital Library, at the University of Calgary. It is on until December 17th. This exhibition brings together 60 artworks from private and public collections across Canada.  

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Joane and I had many long and lively conversations about the contemporary art scene when I was the Executive Director/Curator at the Muttart Art Gallery (1984 to 1994) located in the Memorial Park Library building, now Contemporary Calgary.  Adamant she didn’t want to be known as a “Native Artist” but as a contemporary Canadian artist whose work comments on current Canadian issues, which just happened to be about racism, ethnicity, colonialism and residential school experiences. These were the things, she knew best.

And, in a 2002, article in Galleries West magazine, Joane said “I started on this road to paint about my personal experiences: but because I'm Aboriginal, my work has been considered political. I don't think of it as political:  I think of it as personal.” 

It is ironic that her personal artistic statements are probably more relevant and more political today than at the time of our discussions 30 years ago.

For me, the love of Joane’s work was immediate…I loved the intensity of the colour, the use of colour, images and words to communicate to the viewer.  I loved the narratives in her paintings and installations. 

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I share these images of the exhibition with you as a teaser, as a catalyst to encourage you if at all possible to see the exhibition for yourself.  Joane, who passed away in 2009, is one of Alberta’s most important artists. While she is a member of the prestigious Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, she deserves to be a household name among the likes of Lawren Harris, Emily Carr and Jack Shadbolt.

I will let the art in “The Writing on the Wall” speak for itself.

Note:

  • You may (or may not) be aware of Joane’s work as she has a major sculpture at the Calgary International Airport in the domestic terminal immediately after you check-in. 
  • For those of you who don’t live in Calgary, unfortunately you will have to make due with these images.
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Public Art? Rocks, Keys, Dog & Bone?

Controversial public art raised its ugly head again in Calgary recently with the commencement of the construction of the Bowfort Tower artwork on the off ramp of the TransCanada Highway and Bowfort Road NW.  Yes, it is a strange place for public art. Yes, it is a strange name for a public artwork - sounds more like a new downtown condo or office tower. 

And yes, it seems like a strange choice as the NW gateway to Calgary. 

  Bowfort Towers public artwork on the Trans Canada Highway at Bowfort Road. 

Bowfort Towers public artwork on the Trans Canada Highway at Bowfort Road. 

Change of heart?

When I first checked the City of Calgary's website to see what information they had posted about the piece, it included a statement about how the artwork referenced Calgary's Indigenous culture however that statement has been removed.  Link: City of Calgary, Bowfort Towers

Also since all of the controversy Mayor Nenshi and Chiefs of Treaty 7 have issued a joint statement saying that the piece was never intended to reference Calgary Indigenous Culture. Link: Nenshi Treaty 7 Chief's Joint Statement

However, on August 3, 2017, CBC posted the following statement as part of their coverage of the newly installed public art: 

The Bowfort Towers on the south side of the interchange were designed by artist Del Geist, who is based in New York, N.Y. Sarah Iley (Manager Arts & Culture, city of Calgary) said Geist drew inspiration from the Blackfoot people, and the towers capture the "essence, personality and history" of the area. "Those four towers relate to the Blackfoot cultural symbolism that talks about the four elements, the four stages of life (and) the four seasons," Iley said.

Link: CBC: Gateway to the City: Art Installation

Sorry I don't think you can just now say the piece doesn't make reference to the Blackfoot culture after saying it was. 

  Blackfoot burial platform

Blackfoot burial platform

Calgary we have a problem

As a former public art gallery curator and frequent public art juror, I have often wondered why modern public art seems to be skewed towards the conceptual and minimalist genres, rather than just being fun.  I think this is especially true for what I call “drive-by public art,” i.e. public art that the public can’t get close, or have a chance to take some time to examine it, reflect and ponder its meaning, its concepts, which is critical to understanding and appreciating conceptual art.

When I saw the Bowfort Tower, I immediately knew we were in for another round of public art outrage. I passed by it almost everyday for a week waiting to see how it was going to look, but it just stayed the same – eight iron or wood pillars (hard to tell the difference when driving by) with flat rocks floating in the pillars.  It looked unfinished. It looked like part of the construction site. And yes, is did remind me of indigenous burial sites.

Perhaps, before any public artwork is installed, it should be vetted by a larger public than just a jury and administration. Perhaps, City Council should have final approval of all public art works just like they do all secondary suites. Just kidding!

Obviously, the current open invitation, which is short-listed by administration, with the final decision being made by a different jury of art professionals, community representatives and administration for each piece is isn’t working. In fact, many experienced artists won’t submit to juried competitions because they know the process is flawed. Sad, but true!

However, not all is lost when it comes to public art in Calgary…or is it? Depends on who you are talking to. Read on...

  Close-up view of UNLOCKED a new temporary public artwork on 17th Avenue SW.  

Close-up view of UNLOCKED a new temporary public artwork on 17th Avenue SW. 

UNLOCKED 

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While Bowfort Towers was getting all the attention by public art zealots, over the past two weeks, few were commenting on Calgary’s other two new public artworks – Boney, located in SETON at the entrance to the new Medical Professional Building and UNLOCK, in the middle of the sidewalk on the 200E block of 17th Ave SE.  

UNLOCK, while also visually fun, is a more thought provoking piece.  It consists of a wire mesh archway (12 feet long, 6 feet wide and 8 feet high) located on the sidewalk on 17th Ave SE, between Centre Street and 1 Street SE in front of a new apartment block.  Artist Joanne MacDonald sees keys as a signifier of personal memories – first bike lock, first car keys, first keys to your apartment.  In a letter to local businesses along 17th Ave SE, she asked them to donate keys to be installed on the archway.  It is also her intention to encourage the public to participate at upcoming community events by donating keys as well.

In her letter to businesses along the block, she hoped UNLOCKED would “promote discussion on themes like accessibility, opportunity, privilege, employment, ownership and gentrification.” I think this is a big leap to think the keys will be the catalyst to promote discussion, however the archway does create a fun pedestrian experience whether you walk through or around it.   

We visited at twilight and the setting sun sparkled off the metal keys created a lovely ambience while we lingered for a few minutes before moving on.

  Unlock could become a very interesting installation in the right location. 

Unlock could become a very interesting installation in the right location. 

Personally, I like the way the artist’s references the wire mesh fences that are used at construction sites everywhere in her arch. I think it is great when public art can connect with its site in some manner. I like the simplicity of the structure and to me, the archway visually creates a pageantry-like experience that enhances the everyday sidewalk experience.

What I didn’t see in the artist’s statement or city explanation is the that artwork is an interesting spin on the world wide phenomena of lovers (often as tourists) placing locks in public places as a declaration of their love for each other.  When I first read about the piece, I assumed the artist and the City were encouraging couples and families to come to the archway and add their keys to the artwork as a symbol of their love of each other – a modern love-in you might say.

I love interactive public art.

Backstory: Unlocked is one of four public art pieces being installed this August as part of a new program called The cREactive Realm developed by Blank Page Studio in collaboration with The City of Calgary. It is seen as a way to support businesses along 17th Avenue while streets are torn up to replace water and sanitary lines, repair and rebuild the road and make public realm improvements – new sidewalks, benches, trees and streetlights. The goal is to create interactive, playful experiences using public art that will draw Calgarians to the blocks while they are under construction.  The total budget for the four artworks is $50,000.
  This is another of the four public artworks being produced and temporarily installed along 17th Ave SW during construction as a means of attracting people to visit 17th while it gets new sidewalks and utilities. Budget $15,000.

This is another of the four public artworks being produced and temporarily installed along 17th Ave SW during construction as a means of attracting people to visit 17th while it gets new sidewalks and utilities. Budget $15,000.

  The signage says: CONNECT is a project designed to bring an artist workspace into the Public Realm. Working towards the creation of a piece of public furniture Laura and Micheal Hosaluk are designing and developing their ideas as they share their creative process with you.     Using the lathe and the bandsaw to cut and form Red Cedar from B.C. and Milk Paint to add colour this duo will be working to transform raw materials into a celebration of the process.

The signage says: CONNECT is a project designed to bring an artist workspace into the Public Realm. Working towards the creation of a piece of public furniture Laura and Micheal Hosaluk are designing and developing their ideas as they share their creative process with you. 

Using the lathe and the bandsaw to cut and form Red Cedar from B.C. and Milk Paint to add colour this duo will be working to transform raw materials into a celebration of the process.

BONEY 

  This bone is perched near the roof-top of the EFW Radiology building in one of Calgary's newest communities - SETON. 

This bone is perched near the roof-top of the EFW Radiology building in one of Calgary's newest communities - SETON. 

Boney is a whimsical 9-foot tall purple dog consisting of nine bone shaped pieces designed by the German arts collective Inges Idee (yes, this is the same collective that brought us Travelling Light, better known as the Giant Blue Ring), fabricated and installed by Calgary’s Heavy Industries, who have been responsible for the fabrication of many of Calgary’s new public artworks.  Adding, to add to the whimsy, the dog is looking up to the top of the building where another bone is on the roof. 

Trevor Hunnisett, Development Manager of Brookfield Residential says, “the response to date has been excellent. Given the piece’s location across from the South Health Campus and at the front door of our new medical building, we wanted something that would put a smile on a person’s face regardless of age and personal circumstances.”  In this case, the piece was chosen and paid for by Brookfield Residential - no jury, no City money and no controversy.  Hunnisett wouldn’t divulge the exact price of the artwork but did say it was less than 1% of cost of the building.

Before the snarky public art purists say something like “Sure, all Calgarians want are fluff pieces of horses and other kitschy art,’ I would like to remind them that Jeff Koons has become one of the world’s most famous artists creating artworks that look like the balloon animals pone would see at a child-oriented event. His work is collected by many knowledgeable collectors and is in the collection of art museums around the world. 

If I had one criticism of Boney, it is that it is derivative; one could even say plagiarizes Koons’ work. It is the polar opposite of Bowfort Towers in that it has no hidden meaning, concepts or social statements.  

It is just plain fun – and what’s wrong with that? In my mind Calgary’s new public art is too skewed to obscure conceptual art; sometimes public art can (should) just be fun!

  BONEY looking up at the bone on the roof. I love that BONEY's tail and ears are bone-shaped and the cheerful purple colour. Is it just coincidence that Boney is Nenshi purple????     I also love the simple seating that is all around the piece inviting the public to sit and chat; that's being public friendly. 

BONEY looking up at the bone on the roof. I love that BONEY's tail and ears are bone-shaped and the cheerful purple colour. Is it just coincidence that Boney is Nenshi purple????

 I also love the simple seating that is all around the piece inviting the public to sit and chat; that's being public friendly. 

  Another view of BONEY with the South Health Campus in the background. 

Another view of BONEY with the South Health Campus in the background. 

Last Word

Sometimes I think artists and curators expect too much from public art. While it can be a catalyst for discussion and debate, in most cases, the public glances at the art, likes it or doesn’t like it, and moves on. There is not a lot of thinking, pondering and reflecting on its meaning, concepts, social or political statements. 

What it does do in subtle and subliminal ways is make the pedestrian experience more interesting. To me, urban places are often defined by the diversity and quality of their public art, even if we don’t always realize it.

Personally the best NEW piece of public art in Calgary was a grassroots one in the LRT pedestrian underpass from Sunnyside to 10th Street at Riley Park. 

  This rainbow was painted to celebrate Calgary's Gay Pride Week.  I love the fact that someone has taken the time to clean up the area around the underpass. After I took this photo they toss the garbage in a dumpster nearby.      I am thinking that if the Bowfort Road / Trans Canada Highway underpass had been painted like this on a permanent basis, it would have been well received.  In addition to adding some colour to a concrete grey underpass, it would also have delivered an uplifting message i.e. Calgary is an inclusive city or perhaps Calgary is a city hope and optimism. Both of which are true and would be very appropriate for a gateway artwork. 

This rainbow was painted to celebrate Calgary's Gay Pride Week.  I love the fact that someone has taken the time to clean up the area around the underpass. After I took this photo they toss the garbage in a dumpster nearby.  

I am thinking that if the Bowfort Road / Trans Canada Highway underpass had been painted like this on a permanent basis, it would have been well received.  In addition to adding some colour to a concrete grey underpass, it would also have delivered an uplifting message i.e. Calgary is an inclusive city or perhaps Calgary is a city hope and optimism. Both of which are true and would be very appropriate for a gateway artwork. 

Calgary is NOT on the cusp of becoming a "Design City?"

Last Saturday, CBC Calgary as part of its "Route Ahead" feature published my piece profiling how Calgary has engaged several international architectural firms to create exciting new buildings, bridges and public spaces in our City Centre.

While the piece was well received by many including Mayor Nenshi, there were criticism that the piece focused too much on starchitects, rather than local urban designers and that Calgary has a long way to go before it will be recognized as a "Design City" by world travellers.  

What was edited out of the CBC piece was the following paragraph by Saskatoon architect Charles Olfert who while very impressed by how far Calgary has come over the past 20 years, points out why Calgary is NOT yet a "Design City."

Saskatoon architect, Charles Olfert one of the founding architects of Saskatoon’s aodbt architects is a regular visitor to Calgary, as well as a world traveler. 

When asked if Calgary is on the cusp of becoming a design city he replied, “Do big name, out-of-town designers make Calgary a ‘Design City,’ I would have to say, NO!  To me, Copenhagen epitomizes a ‘Design City’ as its commitment to quality and design goes beyond just the buildings.  They have a “Design Centre” to assist visitors to explore the city’s many uniquely designed buildings and public spaces. When you ask a Copenhagen resident about a building, they will often know the name of the architect and the idea behind the design concept. The overall community’s engagement in design is amazing.”

He adds, "Calgary is well on the way to becoming a design city, but it is not the big name starchitects that will ultimately achieve this goal. It will be when there is a design awareness and appreciation in the everyday culture of the community. Copenhagen has achieved this."

While Olfert is just one person, I do respect his opinion as informed and as an outsider. Sometimes it is hard for Calgarians like me to be objective about the city we love.  In researching this piece several urban design professions from Calgary also cautioned me about calling Calgary a "design city." 

I hope that those of you who live in Calgary will use this blog and google maps to tour downtown with family and friends and decide for yourself if Calgary is on the cusp of becoming a design city.  I'd love to hear what you think!

Here is a reprint of the CBC News Calgary piece with more and different photos.

Calgary: Calgary's global architecture, a nifty walking tour.  

Will BIG’s Telus Sky and Sonhetta’s new Central Library put Calgary on the map of world Design Cities?

Sure we are not a Dubai, New York City, London or Singapore.  But when it comes to being on the world map of Design Cities, we have come along way in the past 20 years. Global designs, has changed the face of our city.

IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME

Architectural and urban design tourism has become popular of late.  It kicked off which the downtrodden industrial Spanish city of Bilboa commissioned Frank Gehry to create the iconic Guggenheim Museum.  It's since attracted millions of visitors from around the world.  Got tourists to go to a place they might never otherwise have seen.

Today many cities around the world are investing billions in wacky new architecture to try and recreate what is now called the “Bilboa Effect.” Calgary is also joining the chorus.

We've got two major projects underway that could help us achieve a critical mass of exemplary urban design. The Telus Sky project designed by the firm of international superstar architect Bjarke Ingels. And the the Norwegian design firm Sinohetta's new Central Library.

These international designs right here in Cow Town will join a host of other major new design projects since 2000.  It may be a bit early to call ourselves a 'Design City', but let's take a stroll across town, and you can decide for yourself.

  One of many urban design hidden gems in downtown Calgary. Close up of Calgary artist Ron Moppett's  five-panel mosaic titled “THESAMEWAYBETTER/READER.” 

One of many urban design hidden gems in downtown Calgary. Close up of Calgary artist Ron Moppett's five-panel mosaic titled “THESAMEWAYBETTER/READER.” 

  New Central Library is taking shape. 

New Central Library is taking shape. 

National Music Centre, 2016

Designed by Portland’s Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture, the massing of the building looks like a huge sculpture, perhaps a Henry Moore “Reclining Nude.” 

The curved glazed terracotta tile walls are in fact inspired by musical instruments. The façade changes colour with the angle of the sun during the day and from season to season.  It also includes a mega bridge over 4th Street SE, which enhances Calgary’s reputation as the world leader in sky bridges. 

The Bow Tower, 2011

Designed by London’s Sir Norman Foster, the diagonally structural braces creates a unique triangulated façade.

The shape of the building was inspired by the bend in the Bow River as it flows through downtown.  However, as you enter the downtown from the northeast it looks a bit like a big barrel of oil….coincidence? 

Wonderland sculpture, 2011

Designed by Spain’s Jaume Plensa, “Wonderland” is a ghost-like head of a young girl that sits on the plaza in front of the Bow Tower. 

There is also a lesser known sculpture by Plensa on north side of the building called “Alberta’s Dream” which is a self-portrait of Plensa sitting on the ground hugging a tree.  His body is covered with the names of Alberta cities and towns. 

Imagine, Calgary a city of tree huggers…could the artists be making a political statement? 
5C730169-F846-455D-8718-1FA98287249C 2.JPG

Brookfield Place (East Tower, 2018)

London’s Arney Fender Katsalidis (AFK) architects were engaged by Brookfield Properties to create a signature building in the heart of downtown.

At 247m it is now Calgary’s tallest building. While it retains the rectangular shape the dominates Calgary’s skyline, it is notable for its rounded glass corners that gives it an iPhone like shape. 

The Core, 2012

Toronto’s MMC International Architects were hired to renovate and integrate what was once Lancaster Square, Devonian Gardens, TD Square, Eaton Centre and old Eaton’s department store into one 'super' shopping mall. 

To do this they created the world’s largest point-supported structural glass skylight - 26m wide and 200m long.

Stephen Avenue Galleria Trees, 2000

The original plan for Bankers Hall was to have a glass canopy over the entire street. But that didn't happen.

Oxford, the then owners of TD Square, weren’t thrilled about having anything attached to their building. So they built 'trees'. The construction of these giant white creations was almost as controversial as the Peace Bridge, because it involved removing the real trees on the block.

While they are called trees, one of the early (and unfortunate) nicknames was “pooper scoopers”.  Yikes. Apparently some felt they looked like something you’d use to clean your kitty litter. The original design was much more elegant as they had slender legs at street level, however the city demanded the bulky boots in case they were ever hit by a vehicle.

This mega public artwork was the idea of Ric Singleton, and the Trizec Hahn design team who developed the Bankers Hall complex.

Eight Avenue Place, East Tower, 2011, West Tower, 2014

Designed by the American architectural firm Pickard Chilton, the shape of the Eight Avenue Place towers was inspired by the planes, angles and sense of thrust of the Rocky Mountains. 

This is actually the second design for the two buildings.  The original design by Gibbs Gage was also inspired by the Rockies but with darker glass. This building is as attractive inside as out, with its cathedral-like lobby, paintings by Canadian masters like Riopelle and Shadbolt and a uniquely designed Starbucks.  

707 Fifth, 2017

707 Fifth is designed by Chicago’s SOM Architects, (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill) - one of the largest and most influential design firms in the world.

Their portfolio includes Chicago’s Willis Tower, 1973 (tallest building in the world for 20 years) and Dubai’s Burj Khalifa (2010) the tallest today.  They are considered to be leader in international style glass tower, minimalist form.

While not the tallest building in Calgary at 27 floors, it respects the glass façade and modernist/minimalist school of office architecture.  With its curved edges and elliptical shape it has a soft femininity that makes it stand out in Calgary’s plethora of stocky old boy towers. 

It also adds to Calgary’s growing portfolio of blue glass towers that started with Canterra Tower now Devon Tower. 

4th Street LRT Station, 2012

Calgary’s Jeremy Sturgess designed the futuristic oval glass bridge at the 4th Street LRT Station which juts over 7th Avenue.  Right there, in the Harley Hotchkiss Gardens, (designed by Winnipeg’s Scatliff, Miller & Murray), you'll find the signature sculpture “DoReMiFSolLaSiDo” by Saskatchewan artist Joe Farfard. 

Originally the sculpture planned for the park was going to more of a conventional cowboy western theme. But Jeff Spalding who was then the CEO at the Glenbow convinced everyone to do something more contemporary.

The eight horses galloping across the park represent Calgary past, present and future. They pay homage to the importance of the horse as part of Calgary’s unique culture – First Nations, Calgary Stampede and Spruce Meadows. 

Be sure to go up close so you can discover all of the miniature images of western heritage Fafard has integrated into the design of each of the horses.

Centrium Place, 2007

Centrium is a precious jewel-like building created by Calgary’s Gibbs Gage architects.

It subtly cantilevers over the sidewalk so the top is wider than the bottom creating what looks like diamond shape.  The facades glass is made up of difference rectangular shaped glass panels in a random pattern that was loosely inspired by the famous Dutch artist Piet Mondrian. 

Jamieson Place, 2009

Gibbs Gage Architects is also responsible for Frank Lloyd Wright inspired Jamison Place with its prairie style twin columns enhancing the vertical thrust from sidewalk to sky.

The Winter Garden inside on the 1-5 level is arguably the most elegant and tranquil place in Calgary, with its infinity pond and living wall.  It is also home to three hanging glass sculptures by the world’s most famous glass artist David Chihuly.

Peace Bridge, 2012

The Peace Bridge designed by Santiago Calatrava is perhaps the most loved and hated work of art in Calgary.

From an international design perspective it is notable in that it is diametrically opposed to Calatrava’s other bridges which are always white with gabled wires creating a light, soaring, wing like visual effect. 

Because of the helicopter pad and that fact that it had to spans the width of the river without any posts, Calatrava used a double hex structure. The choice of red is obvious as it links to the Flames, Stampeders and Calgary Tower, as well it signifies “good luck” in Chinese culture.

One might even wonder if Calatrava is also commenting on Calgary’s “red neck” image?

FDCE5B9A-E82E-4F76-8251-968CF4ACEF95.JPG

East Village Riverwalk, 2011

Since day one, East Village’s Riverwalk has been a hit with Calgarians.

Designed by the Stantec’s Calgary office, this pedestrian promenade now extends from Centre Street to Fort Calgary on the Bow and Elbow Rivers. The Riverwalk has won numerous landscape architect awards, and was instrumental in convincing Calgarians and developers that the City was committed to high design as part of the redevelopment of East Village.

George C King Bridge, 2014

Designed by French design firm RFR and Calgary’s Halsall Associates, this bridge hasbeen nicknamed the “Skipping Stone” bridge - as it has three arches that resemble a stone skipping over the river. 

Unlike the Peace Bridge there was no controversy associated with the King Bridge as an extensive and transparent community engagement process was implemented.  While the Peace Bridge is bold and bulky, the King Bridge is playful and elegant. 

Together they create a wonderful pedestrian circuit along the Bow River.

St. Patrick’s Island Park, 2015

Denver based Civitas, and New York based W Architecture, have transformed St. Patrick’s Island into a charming urban playground with a pebble beach, picnic grove, pathways, playgrounds, plaza and private places to sit. 

In 2016, the Island took top honours in the Great Public Space category in the Canadian Institute of Planners' Great Places in Canada competition.

LAST WORD

While Calgary doesn’t have the biggest, tallest, wackiest or weirdest architecture in the world, we do have some very unique and intriguing buildings, bridges, plazas and parks.

Even with the downturn, there are opportunities for maginificent designs. Things which add to our sense of pride, things which, when they strike the eye, just make our days that much better

So put on you walking shoes, head downtown and you be the judge if the Calgary you thought you knew, is maybe on the cusp of becoming a design city?”

If you like this blog, you will like:

Calgary: Capturing The Art In Architecture

St. Patrick's Island: The Good, The Bad, The Nice To Have

 

Diversity Beats Density: Montreal vs Calgary

While Calgary’s downtown density looks similar to Montreal’s with hundreds of high, mid and low-rise buildings, the diversity of building uses is significantly different. In Montreal, especially near the St. Catherine Street, every block has is a good mix of office, retail, residential and hotel buildings while Calgary's downtown is a sea of office buildings.

  Typical Montreal City Centre streets are cluttered with small shops, cafes and restaurants with apartments above creating a vibrant pedestrian environment. The streets don't have any banners or fancy furniture and the sidewalks are often cracked and uneven, but that just adds to the urban patina.  Pristine streets too often are sterile streets. 

Typical Montreal City Centre streets are cluttered with small shops, cafes and restaurants with apartments above creating a vibrant pedestrian environment. The streets don't have any banners or fancy furniture and the sidewalks are often cracked and uneven, but that just adds to the urban patina.  Pristine streets too often are sterile streets. 

Office buildings kill urban vitality

Calgary’s downtown is dominated by a 50+ block area - Centre Street to 8th Street SW and from 9th Avenue to 2nd Street SW) that is almost exclusively office buildings. There are 135 of them in fact (Source: Building Owners Managers Association Guide, 2016). Some blocks having three and four office towers.  Even, in Montreal, the streets next to their major office complexes were dead on evenings and weekends. 

It was only where hotels, residences and shops are located next to each other that you find urban vitality in the evenings and weekends. Montreal’s downtown benefits from having 75 hotels (including five 5-star) compared to Calgary’s 14 (with no 5-star hotels).

In addition, unlike Montreal, almost all of Calgary’s urban residential buildings sit are on the periphery of the downtown core, each with their own pedestrian streets to eat, shop and hang out on evenings and weekends.

  The streets around Montreal's office towers are devoid of people and animation, as they are in every city. 

The streets around Montreal's office towers are devoid of people and animation, as they are in every city. 

Huge Student Population

Another huge difference is Montreal’s City Center being home to several major universities (Universite du Quebec, 66,000 students; Universite de Montreal, 55,000 students; Concordia University, 44,000 students and McGill, 32,000 students) that is more students than Calgary has office workers. Many of these students also live in and near the city centre, making it their place to “live, learn and play,” not necessarily in that order and not just weekdays from 7am to 7pm like office workers in Calgary.  Montreal’s downtown cafes and shops are full of students all day, everyday.

In comparison, Calgary’s City Centre has just two post-secondary schools - Bow Valley College (14,000 students) and University of Calgary’s downtown building offering primarily non-credit general interest and professional development courses.   Neither has a student residence, as most students leaving the downtown to homes in the suburbs at the end of the day just like the office workers.

  Crew Collective & Cafe in the historic Royal Bank headquarters building is a commercial cafe and shared workspace but in reality, it is a huge study hall for students seven days a week. This was taken on a Sunday. 

Crew Collective & Cafe in the historic Royal Bank headquarters building is a commercial cafe and shared workspace but in reality, it is a huge study hall for students seven days a week. This was taken on a Sunday. 

Tourists love Downtown Montreal

Montreal is also a mega tourist city, with much of its tourism being downtown-oriented. Its $9.2 billion tourism industry (9+ million visitors, 7.7 million hotel room nights) blows away Calgary’s $1.7 billion tourism industry (4 million visitors, 3.1 million room nights).   And, in the case of Calgary, most downtown tourists are weekday business travellers, or those enroute to Banff – they are not here to shop and play in downtown.

Montreal’s mega Palais des Congress (convention and trade show venue) was shortlisted in 2015 as the World’s Best Congress Centre for hosting the most international events of any North American facility.  It annually host 300+ events attracting over 800,000 visitors.  Calgary’s Convention Centre hosts only 41 conventions/tradeshows attracting 250,000 visits, of which only 50,000 are non–residents.

In addition, Montreal’s St. Catherine Street retains its long-standing reputation as a popular shopping street with locals and tourists, while Calgary’s Stephen Avenue is mostly an upscale restaurant row.  By nature, restaurants don’t generate the same street vitality as shops as they are used mostly at lunch and evening with patrons staying inside for longer periods of time. Shoppers on the other hand, are frequently and continuously moving in and out of the stores, giving the street more vitality.

 Montreal's Quarters des Spectacles, the equivalent of Calgary's Olympic Plaza Cultural District was animated day and night over the Christmas season with shoppers, culture vultures and families enjoying the diversity of things to see and do. The diversity includes Desjardins Complex (shopping centre, office, hotel, grocery store), as well as a contemporary art museum, theatre, cinema, convention center and two Christmas Markets.

Montreal's Quarters des Spectacles, the equivalent of Calgary's Olympic Plaza Cultural District was animated day and night over the Christmas season with shoppers, culture vultures and families enjoying the diversity of things to see and do. The diversity includes Desjardins Complex (shopping centre, office, hotel, grocery store), as well as a contemporary art museum, theatre, cinema, convention center and two Christmas Markets.

IMHO

Calgary’s downtown core has limited street vitality in the evenings and on weekends not because of the +15 system (which is also empty), but because it is dominated by office buildings that are empty in the evening and weekends.   Even on weekdays street vitality is limited to noon-hours as office workers are inside working, not out playing like tourists, students and residents.

Vibrant urban streets, like those in Montreal are created by a healthy diversity of building uses - residential, hotel, office, post-secondary schools, shopping, cultural and government.

If Calgary wants to foster more vitality in its downtown core, we need to focus less on the mega office towers and find ways to encourage more projects like the Le Germain building (hotel, office, residential and restaurant at street level) or TELUS Sky (office, residential and retail at street level).

  Plaza St. Hubert is a funky (some might say tacky) canopied street that offer something for people of all ages and backgrounds.  

Plaza St. Hubert is a funky (some might say tacky) canopied street that offer something for people of all ages and backgrounds.  

  St. Catherine Street at 10am on a Sunday morning in December is already full of people. 

St. Catherine Street at 10am on a Sunday morning in December is already full of people. 

  Old Montreal plaza is also busy on the same Sunday afternoon. 

Old Montreal plaza is also busy on the same Sunday afternoon. 

  Montreal's Underground is also busy on Sunday next to St. Catherine Street. 

Montreal's Underground is also busy on Sunday next to St. Catherine Street. 

Something to think about?

Imagine if instead of two office towers - Bankers Hall, TD Square, Eight Avenue Place, Western Canada Place - each had one condo and one office tower how the dynamics of Stephen Avenue would change.  Perhaps the un-built second towers at Brookfield Place and First Canadian Centre on 7th Avenue should become either downtown’s next hotel or condo tower?  

Perhaps some of downtown’s vacant office space could be converted to a new post-secondary school for Calgary. Great cities have lots of universities and colleges.

  Downtown Calgary is dominated by office buildings.

Downtown Calgary is dominated by office buildings.

Berlin: City of Hats?

Upon arriving in Berlin one of the first things I noticed was there seemed to be a lot of hat boutiques, more than I recall seeing in other cities. I saw them not only along the main pedestrian streets, but also on off-the-beaten-path ones and at flea markets.  

They seemed to be everywhere.

Even though I don't wear hats, unless you include a golf visor, I do love them.  Especially the vintage ones that my grandmother use to wear that are like precious works of art designed to sit on a woman's head.

Then I hit the motherlode of hat shops - Fiona Bennett.  We were just aimlessly flaneuring back to the Kurfustten Train Station along Potsdamer Str. when I was stopped in my tracks by the amazing windows of the Fiona -  a hand-made hat store.

I had my camera out faster than you can say "so many hats and only one head." FYI. I borrowed that line from her website.

The windows were like mini-exhibitions with the hats as the works of art. As I moved from window to window I discovered that one of the windows allowed you to look into the studio where they make the hats.  I also loved the dozens of hat forms all piled up along the window - like wooden skulls.

Fiona's was a great ending to a fun day of flaneuring.  For background information on Bennett click here: Fiona Bennett: A Hat Is The Icing On The Cake

I hope you like this photo essay: Flaneuring at Fiona's

Fiona, Berlin

Last Word

And if this isn't enough to convince you that Berlin is truly the city of hats, how about the fact that their walk and don't walk traffic figures have hats. And not only that, the figures have a name Ampelmann and have become such a hit with the tourists there are three Ampelmann boutique stores. 

Postdamer Gallery District 

Fiona is part of the Postdamer Gallery District (see map below).  We visited several galleries during the day but Fiona was far and away the best. 

If you find yourself in Berlin, be sure to drop by Fiona's and perhaps order yourself a custom hat - Postdamer Str. 181-83, open Monday to Saturday, 10 am to 7 pm.  More information at: Fiona

Calgary's Downtown GLOWS with fun!

You gotta go!

I am giving GLOW Calgary's new family-friendly interactive light festival an 8 out of 10. I hope these photos and videos will tell you why.

It is just too much fun for everyone. 

GLOW light shows happen 6:30 to 11:00 pm Saturday Feb 18, Sunday 19th and Monday 20th.  

GLOW maps and more information at DowntownCalgary

"Nibbles" by Australia's Amanda Peer, is an installation of cuddly illuminated bunnies that appeals to the toddlers and anyone who is young at heart. Hotchkiss Gardens

  Canada 150 glowing tricycle was going up and down Stephen Avenue. 

Canada 150 glowing tricycle was going up and down Stephen Avenue. 

  "Chopsticks + Chandelier" by Toronto's Jeremy Tsang is located at James Short Park near Chinatown.   

"Chopsticks + Chandelier" by Toronto's Jeremy Tsang is located at James Short Park near Chinatown.  

  Even the people were glowing at Olympic Plaza. 

Even the people were glowing at Olympic Plaza. 

  Rabbit Down? 

Rabbit Down? 

Top Three Picks:

  • Harley Hotchkiss Gardens is centre ice (Festival Hub) for GLOW with a fun family of glowing bunny rabbits, TROPICALGARY (a dancing light show with music), "Light Shower" booth and warming igloo (for kids only).
  • The Door at Eight Avenue Place's (9th Ave plaza) was a fun surprise for kids of all ages.
  • Olympic Plaza’s PRISMATICA should become a permanent winter installation on the plaza or somewhere in the downtown. 

Other Downtown Delights!

  Downtown Calgary's other public art came alive with young children exploring them. 

Downtown Calgary's other public art came alive with young children exploring them. 

  Downtown's glimmering and shimmering glass towers become jewel-like at night. 

Downtown's glimmering and shimmering glass towers become jewel-like at night. 

  A stain glass window that is almost invisible by day glows at night. 

A stain glass window that is almost invisible by day glows at night. 

Wonderland, aka The BIG Head, on the plaza of the Bow office tower is transformed into a ghostly image at night. 

Last Word

I have to admit I was jealous, of Montreal’s amazing winter light shows, outdoor movies, interactive playgrounds scattered throughout their city center when we visited this past December. Montreal's En Lumiere festival takes place Feb 23rd to March 11th, 2017. 

Link: Montreal En Lumiere

However, I was very pleased to learn in January that the Calgary Downtown Association and Canada 150 had teamed up to produce GLOW a free family-friendly winter light festival for our Family Day Weekend. It didn’t disappoint. 

Now if only we can make GLOW an annual winter event and grow it into a major North American winter event. 

I’d love to see more use made of the making our spectacular office buildings GLOW in the night.

  This image a photo of PRISMATICA was combined with the reflection of Eight Avenue Place on the facade of 707 Fifth office tower using the app "UNION."      I am thinking there is technology that could transform our downtown office buildings into unique colourful glowing artworks all winter long. 

This image a photo of PRISMATICA was combined with the reflection of Eight Avenue Place on the facade of 707 Fifth office tower using the app "UNION."  

I am thinking there is technology that could transform our downtown office buildings into unique colourful glowing artworks all winter long. 

Calgary Postcards: Alberta Boot Company

Recently I tweeted out photos of four photos old hand-painted benches that we discovered during a recent day of flaneuring the community of Manchester asking, “Where in Calgary would you find these?”  While some guessed correctly the Calgary’s Alberta Boot Company’s showroom, I was surprised others didn’t know it still existed. 

Alberta Boot Company, Calgary

Yes, after 30 years in a red brick warehouse on 10th Avenue S.W. the Alberta Boot Company moved to Manchester (50 - 50th Avenue SE to be exact).  While not exactly off the beaten path (just a few blocks from Macleod Trail) or hidden gem (you can easily see it from 50th Ave) the Alberta Boot Company, it is easy to forget the fun things to see and do in your own backyard.

I highly recommend if you are visiting Calgary, or if you have visiting family or friends you make time to checkout the Alberta Boot Company and perhaps take home a pair of boots as a souvenir.

Alberta Boot Company, Calgary

Top 10 things you should know about Alberta Boot Company (ABC):

#1

It was founded by Clement Gerwing at the age of 62. It is never too old to launch a new career.

#2

In 2011, ABC made boots for Prince William and Kate when they visited the Calgary Stampede on their Royal Tour.  Also they have been making boots for the Stampede Princesses for forever. 

Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 3.00.32 AM.png

#3

ABC was the official western boot of the Calgary Winter Games in 1988 and again for the World Police/Fire Games in 1997.

Alberta Boot Company, 1988 Olympic boots

#4

The Company has been making the world famous Strathcona High-Brown Police Boot for the RCMP since 1999 (there is a pair on display). In fact many police forces across North America rely on ABC to make their police boots - the Black Strathcona Boot is the most popular.

Alberta Boot Company, Calgary

#5

A pair of custom hand-made boots starts at about $350. You get to choose the leather, style and custom stitching; as well it includes a personal guided tour of the factory. FYI. There is no regular factory tour program so if you want a tour you have to buy some boots!

Link: How the Alberta Boot Company Makes a Cowboy Boot

#6

ABC now makes men’s and women’s shoes that are very fashion forward and also come with a tour.

Alberta Boot Company shoes

#7

All of ABC’s stitch patterns are named after Alberta towns and cities. One of the most popular patterns is "Edmonton."

#8

There is on average over 5,000 boots in the showroom so you can buy off the shelf.  We found a pair from the 1988 Olympics that would be a great collector’s item. 

Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 2.58.26 AM.png

#9

The Company is still a family owned business, with grandson Ben now the General Manager after taking over from father Tim who took over from his father Clement.

#10

And yes they still have the colourful, politically incorrect, hand-painted children’s benches originally made for a shoe store in Bowness.

Riding the #17 Bus with Alec, Sam & Denise

Last week, out of the blue, I received an email from a former yoga instructor/friend who now lives in Canmore. He tells me he had just met with a woman who is travelling to 10 Canadian cities to collect stories about people who ride the buses, and he thinks we should meet. So he asks if he can he give her my contact info. 

Alec started young creating his own transit systems. Hey we both have that Fisher Price school bus.  

Hell Yes!

Of course I said “sure. ” I am always up for chat with an interesting stranger – especially one with that “mission!”

Backstory:  Brenda and I are avid transit users when we travel to other cities – even in Las Vegas where many people don’t even realize there are things to see other than The Strip and Downtown, let alone they actually have a transit system. We have had great transit experiences and have often chatted about the idea of one day just hopping on a Calgary Transit bus and riding it from end to end.  We have often too wondered where the #72/73 route goes, as we seem to encounter it in odd places all over the city, including on Crowchild Trail at the end of our street. But like most tourists, the fun things we do on holidays we never do at home!

I soon get an email from the “stranger” Denise Pinto who shares more about her project and website (busrideswith.com).  She asks if I would be interested in riding a Calgary Transit bus with her while we chat with each other and some of the people on the bus about our experiences riding buses. 

“Hell, Yes!”

 Alec is a big fan of Calgary's proposed Green Line LRT that will go from the far north edge of the City to the far south edge. 

Alec is a big fan of Calgary's proposed Green Line LRT that will go from the far north edge of the City to the far south edge. 

#17 It Is!

I suggest the #72/73, but it turns out she has already done that one. So I suggest the #1 (close to home and goes from one end of the city to the other, from east to west), but again she has already done it, as well as the #3, which goes from north end of the city to the south. There go my top 3 choices. 

But then a light bulb goes off - I remember young Alec’s birthday party on the C-train and wonder if he and his Mom would like to join us. Turns out they are VERY keen to do so and the #17 bus stops just two houses from their home.  So, as neither  Denise or I had ridden it, the #17 it is!

The route sounded perfect. We would start in Ramsay, one of Calgary’s oldest communities, then make our way to Stampede Park and Erlton Station, through Mission to Downtown, Chinatown, over the Bow River, up Centre Street to Renfrew and back. 

We met up at Café Rosso at the old Dominion Bridge industrial site for coffee and to get “miked-up” (Pinto was creating audio podcasts of her bus rides).  She is also planning a fiction book, using the stories and experiences of the various rides. 

  Getting "miked" up. 

Getting "miked" up. 

Mr. Wikipedia

Eight-year old Alec was amazing. He enthralled us with his knowledge of not only Calgary’s transit system, but also Toronto’s where he and his family had visited so he could check out their buses, street cars and subway.  He is like the “Encyclopaedia Britannica” (my younger readers may better relate to a Wikipedia analogy) when it comes to transit.  While Pinto was supposed to talk to others on the bus, she graciously let Alec be our tour guide. 

Alec told us how he loved the fact you can tweet @CalgaryTransit and get an instant answer about stuff that isn't necessarily essential information like, "Is the Mask C-Train going to be running today?" or "Please say thanks to our bus driver for the great ride we had today on the #17!"
 The #17 arrives right on time at the 23rd Ave SE stop.

The #17 arrives right on time at the 23rd Ave SE stop.

He also reminded us route #17 used to be called route #403.  Sam then shared with us the story about the "23rd Avenue Artwalk" and how they used some of the grant money (Calgary was the Cultural Capital of Canada in 2012) to buy a community garbage bin for 23rd Avenue which she painted with landmarks from the street - including the bus stop sign. The garbage can is still there and still has the old route number on it which she hopes isn't too confusing to new bus riders! 

At one point, Alec told Denise that if her project takes her to Winnipeg to keep her eyes open for one of his favourite older Calgary buses (a few were sold to Winnipeg in early 2016 to his dismay).  He informed Denise they may have been repainted, but you may recognize them by the curved exhaust pipes on the roof at the back! CBC Story Link

Near the end of our ride, Alec informed Denise there used to be a few older Calgary buses which he calls the "U2 buses" since they look like the blue & white U2 C-Trains. In 2015, these disappeared from the fleet and Alec was wondering what happened to them. In the summer of 2015, while on a family road trip to Saskatchewan they were passing through Cold Lake in northern Alberta. They took a random turn on a road in the city and found themselves driving by the Cold Lake city bus barn. And there lined up along the fence were a few of his beloved U2 buses, still with their Calgary paint, but now featuring the words "Cold Lake Transit."  

Sam added, it was such a great surprise and made Alec and his parents think about how buses have adventures beyond the same old route you expect them to take. Link to Alec's photos.

Alec also had questions for Denise. He wondered if she knew about two books – “The Subway Mouse” by Barbara Reid (all about Toronto's subway system) and "Next Stop" by Toronto author Sarah Ellis.  He thought she’d really like "Next Stop" which is about an afternoon in the life of a bus and a girl who is riding by herself with a secret. He thinks the bus ride in this story must be happening in Toronto, but he tried checking the names of the stops mentioned in the book and couldn't find them. He now thinks maybe the story is based on a Toronto bus ride, but set in a city that could be "anywhere."

Not to be left out, Sam shared how Alex’s interest in transit has taken her in directions she I would never have imagined. She loves the everyday journey through unexpected territory that is being a parent. (Editor’s note: Especially being Alec’s mom.)

 One of the many postcard views from my seat on the bus. 

One of the many postcard views from my seat on the bus. 

Denise's Thoughts

Denise loved learning about Alec's early interest in transit and how it has – and continues to - greatly influence his family’s life.  The fact his first word/phrase for anything with wheels was "go-go" and how he referred to the U2 train design as “bright and loving” were touching.

She was also impressed with story around Sam's wonderful initiative starting up the 23rd Ave Art Walk after learning there were 26 artists living within a few blocks of her house.

The fact Calgary will never have double-decker buses because of the Plus 15s also intrigued her. 

She also loved the story about my trip with my 84-year old mother to Mexico City for 18 days where we walked and rode their VERY crowded subway, LRT and buses almost every day. 

When she heard my Mom has also ridden the bus from Whitehorse to Calgary (the trip takes almost 29 hours just to get from Whitehorse to Edmonton and then you have to take another bus to Calgary which is another 3.5 hours) arriving the morning the Bow River flooded downtown Calgary (including the bus depot), in 2013. As part of her research, Denise hopes to meet my Mom, a self-described “Queen of the Rails,” as trains beat out any and all means of transportation for her.

Last Word

 Denise capturing the moment.

Denise capturing the moment.

It turns out Denise is on sabbatical as the Global Director/Executive Director of Jane’s Walk based in Toronto.  It is “a charitable project that honours the late urbanist Jane Jacobs' ideas and community-based approach to city building by encouraging citizen-led walking tours that make space for every person to observe, reflect, share, question and collectively re-imagine the places in which they live, work and play.”   

Good chance Alec, Denise and Sam are going to be my new best friends.

  

If you like this blog, you will like:

Everyday Tourist Transit Tales

Ramsay Calgary's Funky Industrial District

Calgary Regional Transit: ON-IT Love in!

Everyday Tourist: Postcards From 2016

I am not sure why but I have always loved postcards.  I have spent the past few weeks looking at all the photos I have taken in 2016 to see which ones might make good postcards.  

I thought I'd try to choose one for each month, but that didn't work out as some months were better than others.  Then I thought maybe 16, given it was 2016 - so sixteen it is.  

These are not necessarily the best photos or the year, nor are they your typical postcards. I hope you find them insightful and intriguing. In many cases I have added a link to a blog that relates to the postcard if you would like more information or see more photos.

Happy Holidays and all the best in 2017!

If you have a chance to go to Buffalo, NY - GO!  We loved the early 20th century architecture, especially the mansions and Frank Lloyd Wright's Darwin D. Martin house.  But the highlight for me was the abandoned Grain Silos that you can tour.  I loved the way the City has used the facade to create a wonderful light show and inside they have allowed artists to create installations.  These paper gears that float at the top of one of the silos were created by Daniel Seiders, a landscape architect, for the City of the Night public art project in 2013. Link: Postcards From Buffalo The Bold

  It is always best to take the road less travelled. We found about 20 of these children's rocking horses on a farmer's fence post along Highway #845 as we headed north from Picture Butte back to Calgary from a fun weekend in Lethbridge.  We really must take more road trips in 2017.    

It is always best to take the road less travelled. We found about 20 of these children's rocking horses on a farmer's fence post along Highway #845 as we headed north from Picture Butte back to Calgary from a fun weekend in Lethbridge.  We really must take more road trips in 2017.   

Austin was too much fun.  We went back to the HOPE Outdoor Gallery several times as was such a playful place where everybody seemed to have great time.  I even bought some cans of spray paint to add my signature to the Gallery. It brought back memories of Gleichen, Alberta in the early '80s when I organized the Street Art For Gleichen project.  Link: Austin's Weird and Wonderful Outdoor Gallery. 

Austin threw me a great birthday party last year.  Each year, on the first Sunday of March Austin's Zilker Park is the site of a huge kite festival.  In 2016, it just happen to take place on my birthday. Link: Austin Kite Festival: Cheap, Colourful, Chaotic & Crazy! 

Everybody loves a parade! While Caglary is probably best known for the Calgary Stampede Parade, the Parade of Wonders (POW) that takes place as part of Calgary Expo (cosplay) allows spectators to get up close and personal with the parade participants.  Link: Everyday Tourist Visits Calgary Expo

 In May, I discovered Hamilton's monthly Art Crawl along James Street North. It is possibly North America's best kept art and festival secret.  It combines the best elements of an art walk with a night market. In September every year is the Super Crawl when the street is closed for the weekend for a huge street/music festival.  It should be on every Canadian's list of festivals to see.  Link: Hamilton's Art Crawl is indeed super!

In May, I discovered Hamilton's monthly Art Crawl along James Street North. It is possibly North America's best kept art and festival secret.  It combines the best elements of an art walk with a night market. In September every year is the Super Crawl when the street is closed for the weekend for a huge street/music festival.  It should be on every Canadian's list of festivals to see. Link: Hamilton's Art Crawl is indeed super!

It was a great spring for the garden in 2016. I had a lot of fun taking photos of the flowers. There is something primordial about this one that intrigues me. Link: Garden Flaneuring: Try it you might like it. 

2016 was the year of the playground for me.  I developed a whole new appreciation for the importance of playgrounds in community building.  We installed a new playground at the Grand Trunk Park across the street from our house and it is true "if you build it they will come." In the 20+ years we have lived in our house we have never seen so many kids at the playground. Link: The End Of The Grand Trunkers' Playground Envy!

  While at the Calgary Stampede this year I noticed that this public artwork "By The Banks Of The Bow" functioned like a playground for people of all ages and backgrounds. This got me to thinking wouldn't it be great if all public artworks engaged the public like this one does.   I wish I was rich and could commission a piece like this for Grand Trunk Park.  Link: Stampede Park: Calgary's best children's playground?

While at the Calgary Stampede this year I noticed that this public artwork "By The Banks Of The Bow" functioned like a playground for people of all ages and backgrounds. This got me to thinking wouldn't it be great if all public artworks engaged the public like this one does. I wish I was rich and could commission a piece like this for Grand Trunk Park. Link: Stampede Park: Calgary's best children's playground?

The Calgary International Folk Festival on Prince's Island in the middle of the Bow River on the edge of Calgary's skyscraper downtown is a special place.  This year I was able to sit just a few feet away from Canadian music legend Ian Tyson for what seemed like backyard concert. Link: Postcards from 2016 Calgary International Folk Festival

I love the interplay of architecture and sky in this image of the Art Gallery of Alberta, in Edmonton.  It was a tough decision on which 2016 architectural photo to include. Link: Calgary: Capturing The Art in ARchiTecture!

A trip to Kelowna BC was enlightening. Not only did we get to see the Kelowna Art Gallery's retrospective of John Hall's work, but we also got an appreciation for the wonderful transformation of their downtown and waterfront. I chose this painting as it reminded me of Mexico City (one of my best trips ever) and the Lucha Libre wrestlers. Link: John Hall: The Everyday Experience Bond

  I have always loved this two-storey high Untitled artwork by Cliff Eyland in the lobby of Winnipeg's downtown Millennium Library. It is composed of 1,000 miniature paintings, most of them 3"x5" the size of library catalogue card.  From a distance, it looks like   huge   pixilated TV screen, but up close they are fun landscape, figurative and abstract painting.  Guess I am not the only one who loves it, the new Halifax Library commissioned him to do one that has 5,000 miniature paintings in the lobby and another 1,000 on the 5th floor.  Perhaps Calgary will get one for their new library!  It would be fun to get   Eyland   to work with local children to make the paintings and see what happens.

I have always loved this two-storey high Untitled artwork by Cliff Eyland in the lobby of Winnipeg's downtown Millennium Library. It is composed of 1,000 miniature paintings, most of them 3"x5" the size of library catalogue card.  From a distance, it looks like huge pixilated TV screen, but up close they are fun landscape, figurative and abstract painting.  Guess I am not the only one who loves it, the new Halifax Library commissioned him to do one that has 5,000 miniature paintings in the lobby and another 1,000 on the 5th floor.  Perhaps Calgary will get one for their new library!  It would be fun to get Eyland to work with local children to make the paintings and see what happens.

Montreal was amazing - especially with their use of light both inside and outside.  This postcard captures the synergy of the coloured glass facade of the Palais des congres by Jean-Francis Cantin with The Constellation of Great Montrealers (the blue figure wall with name plates of individuals who have contributed to making Montreal a great city).  It was magical.

This is the Crew Collective & Cafe on a Sunday afternoon. What a great reuse of the 1928 former headquarters of the Royal Bank of Canada. It is not just a cafe, but a co-working space, meeting and event space. The ceiling is spectacular and note how they have incorporated the teller windows into the new space.  Brillant!

2016 was the year of the Knox Walk, we enjoyed hours of fun exploring our immediate neighbourhood, always finding something new. I think it captures the essence of being both a flaneur and an everyday tourist. Link: Flaneuring Fun in Montreal!