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RedBall Project costs Calgary $33K for weeklong Canada 150 celebrations

It took five years and $33,000, but the City of Calgary managed to wrest a giant, 115-kilogram inflatable ball away from other Canadian cities for the lead-up to Canada Day 150.

City's existing relationship with artist helped edge out other interested Canadian centres

The RedBall Project wedged itself into Encana Plaza after the City of Calgary paid $33,000 to make the public art installation part of its Canada Day 150 celebrations. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

It took five years and $33,000, but the City of Calgary managed to wrest a giant, 115-kilogram inflatable ball away from other Canadian cities for the lead up to Canada Day 150.

Sarah Iley, manager of arts and culture for the city, said the price tag was covered by a $700,000 federal grant to enhance the city's Canada Day 150 celebrations. 

The world famous travelling RedBall Project is a playful, temporary public art installation that has appeared in 30 cities worldwide since its creation in 2001, including Barcelona, London, Taipei and Abu Dhabi.

The RedBall measures roughly 4.5 metres in diameter when fully inflated. It takes approximately one hour to install it. (RedBall Project https://redballproject.com/)

The piece is known to change its location every day while visiting a city, often wedging itself between well-known landmarks with an aim to delight, surprise and even confound locals.

"It has literally been around the world, so we're really lucky to be on the roster this year," Iley said.

"In fact, there were other Canadian cities that wanted this, but because we had this earlier relationship with Kurt, that's why he chose us."

Kurt Perschke, the American artist behind the project, actually came to Calgary in 2012, back when the city was the designated Cultural Capital of Canada.

Artist Kurt Perschke describes the RedBall as a "piece that moves through a city activating spaces." (Charles Platiau/Reuters)

"We were looking at the possibility of bringing Kurt in that year, but he got taken away from us because he went off with the RedBall to the London Olympics," Iley explained.

"We had another chance, and we thought, 'Terrific. Let's bring in the RedBall project to lead people through the week to build up the excitement for Canada 150.'"

Perschke hand-selected each of the sites where the giant performance art piece will appear while in Calgary, such as the Peace Bridge and the Poppy Plaza River Pathway.

"One of the things that really attracted us to the RedBall Project was the way that Calgarians respond to temporary public art installations. Think of Beakerhead. Think of those big, white bunnies and how those really attract people," Iley said.

"We thought that's why the RedBall Project was really right."

Here is where you'll find the RedBall during the rest of its stay in Calgary:

  • Shaw Millennium Park, June 28.
  • The Bay (First Street S.W. and Stephen Avenue), June 29.
  • Eau Claire Plaza, June 30.
  • Olympic Plaza, July 1.
The world famous travelling art installation will make its home in Calgary until Canada Day. 0:35

With files from Scott Dippel and Monty Kruger