Calgary·Analysis

Calgary's lesser known art: statues, paintings, memorials and manhole covers

Have a ramble around the city and check out some art that you've probably walked by a dozen times, and never noticed. Meg Wilcox brings us a list of 10 places in Calgary communities to find art where you might not expect it.

Hidden in plain sight, here's some art that you've probably walked by a dozen times

Most people recognize the 12-metre tall sculpture in front of the Bow Building in Calgary called Wonderland. Below are some of the lesser known art pieces adorning our city. (Submitted by Hugo Villi)

This story was originally published April 23, 2016.


You know where to find Wonderland, the Famous Five and Chinook Arc — but here are nine finds for even the most seasoned public arts aficionados, and a future project that you can be a part of.

1. General Wolfe statue in Mount Royal (1899)

You wouldn't necessarily expect to find a bronze statue of the British general who led troops into the Battle for the Plains of Abraham in Calgary — but, indeed, he stands in South Mount Royal Park, which is aptly located between Wolfe Street, Quebec Avenue and Montcalm Crescent (Montcalm being Wolfe's adversary in the battle) in the city's southwest.

This bronze statue of Gen. James Wolfe was first placed outside the planetarium but then moved in 2009 to a small park in Mount Royal on Wolfe Street. (Meg Wilcox/CBC)

The statue itself originally adorned a building in New York City but was privately bought and donated to the city. It was installed at the city planetarium in 1967 and moved to its current location in 2009.

2. Winter Garden Chandeliers by Dale Chihuly (2009)

You can find Chihuly's beautiful, otherworldly glass chandeliers on the Plus 15 level of Jamieson Place (308 Fourth Aveue S.W.) in its plant-filled and infinity-pooled Winter Garden.

Chihuly’s glass chandeliers are on the Plus 15 level of Jamieson Place at 308 4 Ave S.W. (Richard White)

The three chandeliers were made from 400 pieces of blown glass and assembled right in the garden.

3. Bloom by Michel de Broin (2015)

You can find de Broin's 24-metre tall sculpture, made out of streetlights and metal, on St. Patrick's Island. While its materials may seem out of place in such a natural setting, de Broin's work is inspired by the natural landscape and the urban cityscape.

'Bloom' stands tall on Calgary's St. Patrick's Island. (Jason Ronald)

In his artist statement about the piece, he explains how the sculpture blossoms at night as the lights come on in the evening and watch over the island.

4. Dichroic Glass Hexagonal Perturbation Triptych or Hat Trick 2010-2013 by Christian Eckhart (2013)

The massive 1,200-square-foot, three-paneled piece is made of dichroic glass, weighs 10,000 pounds and is made of 1,500 hand-made parts. It took three years for Calgary artist Christian Eckart to complete the project.

It took three years for Calgary artist Christian Eckart to complete this project called Dichroic Glass Hexagonal Perturbation Triptych or Hat Trick. It is in the lobby of Centennial Place at 520 3 Ave. S.W. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

You can find the panels in the lobby of Centennial Place at 520 Third Ave. S.W.

5. A Portrait of My Grandfather by Micah Lexier (1994)

In the atrium of the University of Calgary's Scurfield Hall hangs Lexier's work — tens of thousands of small, laser-cut stainless steel Xs that flow almost like a waterfall from the ceiling.

This piece of art installed in 1995 is at Scurfield Hall at the University of Calgary. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

But most don't know the sculpture is actually a portrait of Lexier's grandfather. Each X, cut in the shape of his handwriting, marks a day in his life for a total of 29,064 marks.

And there's a fitting connection — the hall is part of the University's Haskayne School of Business, and Lexier's grandfather was a small business owner.

6. The Boer War Memorial by Louis Philippe Hebert (1914)

You may already know the statue in the middle of Central Memorial Park but did you know it's the first piece of art commissioned by the City of Calgary?

The Boer War memorial statue is in Central Memorial Park, which is Calgary's oldest park. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

According to independent curator Katherine Ylitalo, the artist was known to be one of the best equine sculptors of his time. Hebert used local horses and riders to create the realistic forms in the piece.

7. Bow Valley College Art Collection

If you haven't wandered Bow Valley College's downtown campus (332 Sixth Ave. S.E.) then you're missing out on a fantastic free trip to a great collection of art.

Bow Valley College has a vast art collection. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

Since 2010, the college has worked to expand and display its art collection and works on loan from other galleries. The collection includes pieces by Joanne Cardinal-Shubert, Ron Moppett, Anne McKenzie and more.

8. Water Garden by Linda Covit (2009)

You probably don't have much of a reason to visit the City of Calgary's Water Centre (Spiller Road and 25th Avenue S.E.). But if you do you'll find this bubbly, constantly flowing sculpture in the lobby.

Water Garden is located in the lobby of the City of Calgary Water Centre. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

Water Garden aims to visually translate the centre's purpose, with glass panels pieced between different poles at varying angles to emulate a wooded grove. Water flows between the glass, playing with and reflecting off the natural light coming through the centre's large windows.

9. Calgary's Manhole Covers (multiple years)

Keep an eye out underfoot, as the city has commissioned several rounds of projects for artists to decorate those round discs you rarely pay attention to. You may spot city skylines, Stampede icons or even a 2002 design from Garry Williams called Chinook depicting a cherubic face blowing a warm wind.

Over the years the City of Calgary has commissioned artists to design manhole covers. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

The City of Calgary has just put out a call for new manhole cover designs, so expect to see new designs in the future.

10. PLUS! 3D Canada by Douglas Coupland (2017)

Vancouver-based artist Douglas Coupland is known for bucking trends, and for one of his newest projects he's travelling across the country and scanning miniature 3D busts of Canadians.

Vancouver-based artist Douglas Coupland is travelling across the country and scanning miniature 3D busts of Canadians for a project that will be released in 2017. (Brian Howell/Canadian Press handout)

The final product will be shown in Simon's upcoming store in Toronto's Yorkdale Mall. But if you want a chance to meet Coupland and get scanned, he will be hosting an event at Calgary's CORE shopping centre downtown sometime in the spring of 2017.


Calgary at a Crossroads is CBC Calgary's special focus on life in our city during the downturn. A look at Calgary's culture, identity and what it means to be Calgarian. Read more stories from the series at Calgary at a Crossroads, including: