The artists behind a controversial Calgary public art installation say they are very surprised by the harsh reaction to the piece.

The sculpture, called Travelling Light, is a large blue metal hoop with street lights on top that is located in the city's northeast on the 96th Avenue bridge near Deerfoot Trail. The piece cost the city $470,000 and has raised quite a few eyebrows. 

Mayor Naheed Nenshi has called the work "awful."

"Now I don't like it, but sometimes art is divisive," said Nenshi earlier this week

Axel Lieber, a Swedish artist part of the group Inges Idee, released a statement to the CBC's Calgary Eyeopener in response to the criticism.  

The statement, made on behalf of Inges Idee, says the intensity of media and public reaction is new to the group.

"A kind of irritation seems even to derive from us being an artist group from abroad," reads the statement.

"We would like to point out that over 80 per cent of the overall project budget for this project stayed in Calgary, as the fabricators are a local company based in the City of Calgary."

Calgary's public art program received 55 submissions during an internationally-announced competition. The project was part the city's public art policy, which mandates that one per cent of the city's budget will go to public art.

Inges Idee says the project was challenging because it had to be incorporated into the functional structure of the road and bridge, and they wanted it to serve as a landmark from afar.

"We are aware that changes to a familiar environment can be irritating to some people and spur issues of discussion and controversy," the statement reads.

"Nevertheless, we hope that once the [discussions] have calmed down and people get more used to the sculpture, Calgarians might be able to enjoy the work."