Roadside sculpture park features international artwork, local artist's dedication

Along the Edmonton-Calgary corridor, drivers can get a glimpse of art from around the world, thanks to the dedication of a local artist.

Town of Olds, Alta., has embraced the vision of Morton Burke, who collects pieces

The Homestretch's Jenny Howe gets a tour of the Highway 27 Sculpture Pathway from Morton Burke, who made it. (CBC)

Along the Edmonton-Calgary corridor, just a few kilometres off Highway 2, drivers can get a glimpse of art from around the world.

An artist and farmer has installed a sculpture garden in the town of Olds, and it's soon going to have 10 works of art on display for anyone to view. 

Morton Burke of nearby Bergen came up with the idea. And he's done it in a unique way.

A sculptor himself, Burke invited — and paid — international artists to visit his farm as part of an annual sculpture symposium. The artists would stay, get inspired and sculpt.

He's now moved half of the resulting stone artworks from his farmyard garden, called Bergen Rocks, to a public roadside gallery.

The town bought three of the sculptures for a total of $40,000, plus delivery, but more are on loan.

"Depending on how they're received by the community, etc., then they may acquire the whole collection after a period of time," Burke told the Homestretch's Jenny Howe.

Get out and walk around the sculptures, as many look different from different angles. (CBC)

Some of the pieces are appraised at more than $100,000, he said, and they're made from boulders. Burke hired a crane to bring the raw stones to his farm.

The town spent an additional $55,000 to make a park with walking paths to showcase the artwork, according to its website.

Busy stretch, many potential visitors

For now, anyone can stop by to see the 10 sculptures on display, outside in the elements, at what's known as the Highway 27 Sculpture Pathway. It's on the north side of the busy stretch, near 65th Avenue.

"We thought that it was the best location and also because of the exposure that it'll get," Burke said. "There's several thousand cars travelling down Highway 27 every day."

The sculptures stick out prominently, being tall and wide. They look differently depending on the angle, and Burke estimates they'll last hundreds of years. 

He thinks the art can bring social and economic benefits to the town by encouraging more people to stop on their way through.

"I'd like to see it stimulate other communities to have a sculpture park, to see how wonderful this kind of thing is," Burke said. "I'd like to see a proliferation of sculpture parks."

With files from Jenny Howe, Julie Debeljak and the Homestetch