September 25, 2018
Imagine walking into the gallery of a world class collection, admiring the stunning works of local and internationally renowned artists. As you walk – taking in a deep breath to absorb the beauty and magnitude of the collection – you are accompanied by an esteemed art curator who is uncovering hidden stories behind each of the pieces. He reveals the toils of the artist and the mysterious nature of their work. The map provided to you upon entry to the gallery is no ordinary map. It is alive and interactive. It contains all the artworks, but you do not see them immediately laid out for you. The path to finding them is not straightforward. You will have to search for them – a virtual scavenger hunt – navigating your environment as you go. In your delight, you are then transported to an online portal, connecting you to the larger web of artworks and the people viewing them.
Now imagine all this is happening with the city as a backdrop. Instead of a white-walled gallery space, you are chasing down sidewalks, taking in eclectic sounds and sights, criss-crossing into building lobbies, up and down stairs and escalators and back out on to the street again. Conventional boundaries between public and private space erode in your obsession to search for the art. You find yourself gathering with others in confined spaces, clustering at the curb to optimize your vantage point as your curator suggests, “we really need to go back a bit further to appreciate this piece.”
This was Art and the City.
Born out of Lifescape’s collaborative approach to city-making and curation, Art and the City was an ambitious project to link together the art that exists in plazas, lobbies, and spaces in downtown Calgary in order to create an accessible and engaging ‘gallery’ of the city. The underlying goal was to connect people to these places and showcase the opportunities that exist to feel connected to their city, to enhance their experience when they take a leisurely walk through the streets and buildings of downtown Calgary.
Our Lifescape team partnered with ArtWalk on this incredible initiative, where our team developed a pilot event that took place on September 15 and 16 in Calgary during the ArtWalk festival. The uniqueness behind the pilot project allowed visitors to immerse themselves into a guided walking tour through the downtown core, taking in art pieces located in the public realm in addition to artworks located in several building lobbies/+15 areas. The art walk itself was accompanied by gallery owner Yves Trépanier and a narrative created by the poet laureate Sheri-D Wilson, which was sprayed onto the sidewalk.
This provided a deeper sense of appreciation during the art walk, tying together disparate pieces of art as one holistic experience. This was completed in tandem with a web-based downtown art guide, which was accessible via mobile devices and QR codes, strategically located in the public realm. In time, our goal will be to develop this into a more comprehensive library of artworks in the city.
This incredible experience was converted into an installation on Centre Street for Park(ing) Day, situated next to the Bow’s ‘Wonderland’ sculpture. Last weekend, our team took over a parking stall and instituted an art discussion space to reflect and engage with others and to disseminate information about the initiative. Moving from the event-based pilot to broader engagement practices, our strategy was to bring awareness to how people engage with art in our city, tested in a real-world setting.
Through Art and the City, we visually observed how the event fostered inter-disciplinary collaboration and created spaces for interaction with art and the dialogue that surrounds it. It is hoped that the lasting impact of the initiative will be an improved awareness and understanding of the art collection in downtown Calgary and provides access to this amazing body of works in our city.
We would like to thank the following for their generous support as our partners in the initiative:
To participate in your own self-guided walking art tour, visit https://artandthecitycalgary.com/.
For more information on Lifescape or to discuss how this service offering can benefit your project, please contact:
Judith MacDougall, Principal
Will Craig, Senior Associate
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