Five Things: Public Art

RT |

mC:t 2015.02.10

Public art provides citizens and visitors access to visual art in the public realm. Here is a brief overview of public art in Calgary:

What is public art?
The City of Calgary defines public art as “any original work of art that is accessible to the general public”. Under this definition, public art can come in a variety of forms, such as temporary, created for a specific event or time frame; imbedded, forming a physical part of a building; or even functional, serving as a piece of art and a functional component such as a bench or bike rack. Public art can consist of a variety of mediums including, but not limited to, sculptures, paintings, drawings, mosaics, murals, and landscape architecture.


Who selects the City’s public art?
There are three main groups of people that take part in the public art selection process: City of Calgary staff, the Public Art Board and the Jury.

  • City of Calgary staff members are responsible for establishing a project plan, which outlines goals for the future artwork as well as the budget and time frame of the project.
  • The Public Art Board consists of nine council appointed citizen volunteers, with a minimum of two visual artists. This board provides guidance on public art matters and reviews project proposals put forth by city staff.
  • The Jury is selected by the public art Project Coordinator in consultation with other stakeholders, such as Community Associations. The Jury is made up of art and design specialists, community representatives and technical experts and is ultimately responsible for the selection of the best-suited artist or artistic concept.


When was the City’s Public Art Policy adopted?
The City of Calgary adopted its Public Art policy in 2004 as a means to integrate public art into the cultural fabric of Calgary. The policy helps to recognize public art as a vital component of Calgary’s goal of becoming a great, creative city. The primary role of the Public Art policy is to provide direction and to ensure appropriate development, management and maintenance of the City’s public art. Since its adoption, the City’s Public Art Policy has helped to initiate 45 original works of permanent public art throughout 11 wards in the City.

Where do the funds for the City’s public art come from?
The City’s Public Art Policy stipulates funding mechanisms for public art. Revised in 2014, the funding model outlines that City capital projects valued over $1 million will allocate 1% of the first $50 million of project costs and 0.5% of the portion over $50 million to public art, up to a maximum of $4 million per project. The funds can then be used in three ways: they can remain with the Department that initiated the project to be used for public art on the project site, a portion of the funds can be transfer to the Public Art Reserve Fund, or the unrestricted funds can be pooled and used at an alternate site.


Why is public art important?
Public art is identified in numerous City initiatives, such as ImagineCalgary, PlanIt Calgary and various other redevelopment plans, demonstrating the City’s recognition of its importance. Not only does public art contribute to a visually rich environment, but it can help to establish a neighbourhood’s sense of place as many artworks are site specific and reflect unique characteristics of a particular area. Public art is accessible to all people, whether they reside in Calgary or are just passing through, and helps to contribute to the growth of a culturally informed public.
More information on the City’s public art collection can be found here.