Calgary Stampede unveils 1st public art at ENMAX Park

The Calgary Stampede has just revealed its first piece of public art for ENMAX Park, located at the MacDonald Bridge entrance to Stampede Park.

Roughly 2,000 hours of work, 750 of which spent polishing the stainless steel, says artist

This Calgary multimedia artist has just unveiled Rainbow Trout, ENMAX Park's first piece of public art. 1:02

The Calgary Stampede has revealed its first piece of public art for ENMAX Park, located at the MacDonald Bridge entrance to Stampede Park.

The sculpture, titled Rainbow Trout, was designed by Calgarian Jeff de Boer and is a two-dimensional experience in the literal sense, as well as a three-dimensional object in the abstract. 

When standing in the sculpture's "sweetspot," the vibrant image of a rainbow-coloured trout leaping upward is clearly visible.

When standing in the 'sweetspot,' the six elements of the sculpture align to form a two-dimensional image of a rainbow trout. (CBC)

"Everybody can understand a literal image," said de Boer.

"But when you start to move around ... then you discover that those six elements of that rainbow trout are actually six separate pieces suspended at different distances away, and it becomes a three-dimensional object and falls into the abstract."

'As you move around it, it starts to break up into abstract moments in three dimensions,' says artist Jeff de Boer. (Jenny Howe/CBC)

The sculpture also lights up at night, against a pitch-black backdrop.

"It's a feeling of fireworks," he said.

"The street lamps cast a yellow light, when it hits the stainless steel, the stainless steel looks like it's on fire."

An unexpected commission

When de Boer initially applied for the project, he proposed a completely different sculpture.

"I never thought anyone would ever commission this piece," de Boer said.

He only brought along a model of Rainbow Trout, which he had designed 15 years earlier, to demonstrate how he has used electric colours in his portfolio.

"When they saw that, they decided right there and then that that's what they wanted, and they weren't even listening to the rest of my presentation on the other things," he said.

2,000 hours and $200K

The sculpture took a total of 2,000 hours to complete, 750 of which were spent solely polishing the stainless steel, de Boer said.

"It was an extraordinary pain in the ass to build, so we have that solid memory of having suffered for our art," de Boer joked.

"There's something memorable about that."

For his efforts, de Boer was awarded $200,000. 

"People think that that's a lot of money, but you have to understand that over the process of this sculpture, I employed some 30 people at various levels," he said.

"This is not about me. I could not build this.

"It takes a whole community of people. It's taken me 30 years to build the network of people who have the talent and the passion to build at this level," de Boer said.

"This sculpture for me right now is really the combination of everything it's taken me up until this point to be able to produce this kind of work."

With files from Jenny Howe