'This is a first for Calgary': Public art on 17th Avenue S.W. aims to bring back business

The City of Calgary hopes a series of public art projects will draw people to businesses affected by 17th Avenue S.W. construction, but restaurant owners in the area aren't so sure it will work.

Four art installations are planned in an effort to attract consumers during construction

A new art installation in Calgary titled Unlock went up this week at 17th Avenue and 1st Street S.E. It's an archway built out of fencing hung with hundreds of spare house keys. (CBC)

The City of Calgary hopes a series of public art projects will draw people to businesses affected by 17th Avenue S.W. construction, but restaurant owners in the area aren't so sure it will work.

"I know that New York and Montreal and cities like that have done this in the past. This is a first for Calgary," said Logan Tolsma, a senior project engineer with the city.

"The idea is to try and find ways to support businesses through construction as best we can," he said.

A new art installation titled Unlock went up this week at 17th Avenue and 1st Street S.E. It's an archway built out of fencing hung with hundreds of spare house keys.

"People always have leftover keys in their junk drawers, and so are encouraged to bring down keys and add them to this sculpture," said Daniel J. Kirk, the lead artist in charge of the Creative Realm project, which was developed by Blank Page Studio in collaboration with the city.

Daniel J. Kirk, the lead artist in charge of the Creative Realm project, says four art installations are planned for 17th Avenue S.W. in 2017, at a cost of roughly $12,000 each. (CBC)

Kirk says this year four art installations are planned, at a cost of roughly $12,000 each.

Another art project features guided audio walking tours linked to bronze survey markers embedded in the sidewalk in the 200 block of 17th Avenue. The six City High Fortune episodes include local stories and original music.

At nearby Naina's Kitchen, owner Erin Mueller says she's happy to see new public art in her neighbourhood, but she's not convinced it's helping her business draw customers during construction.

"I don't know if it makes much of a difference right now, because of course the pedestrian traffic and the road traffic is close to nil. So, I think it's going to be a wonderful thing when construction is done," Mueller said.

The public art program will use 0.6 per cent of the $44-million budget for the 17th Avenue S.W. construction project. (CBC)

"As long as they stay on schedule and they're done by the end of September. We should be able to weather the storm," she said.

The entire 17th Avenue construction project is expected to take three to four years at a cost of $44 million. The public art program is 0.6 per cent of the budget, according to the Creative Realm project.