The best art is generally seen as something that can spark a conversation.
If that’s the case, the city has arguably spent millions on some breathtaking conversation starters — many of them for all the wrong reasons.
Here are some of Calgary’s more infamous examples of public art that didn’t quite hit the mark:
2009 BEARING — Built for $221,000, this large metal ball was made from fasteners, washers and bearings to represent work done at the Calgary Fire department’s apparatus repair and maintenance facility in the northeast. unfortunately, the yard seldom sees visits from members of the public and is kept behind a metal fence that surrounds the facility.
2012 PEACE BRIDGE — While not technically a city public art project, this polarizing pedestrian bridge soured many at the time due to its hefty price tag ($24.5 million) and the fact that the city sought out famed architect santiago Calatrava without going through the standard public tendering process for infrastructure. It’s since become an iconic part of the city’s skyline, but has also faced struggles with broken glass panes that are expensive to replace and some lingering public resentment.
2012 WISHING WELL —No members of the public are able to view this $559,000 sculpture, a giant, shiny orb that appears split as it’s been sitting in storage for three years. In 2012, the artwork was surrounded by protective fencing at the genesis Centre in the northeast after the sun’s rays reflected by the sphere burned a woman’s jacket. It was moved into storage in the summer of 2014 where it remains.
2013 TRAVELING LIGHT —It spawned a satirical Twitter account and prompted council to tweak its public art policy. Known locally as the giant Blue Ring, the $471,000 art piece along 96 ave. on the city’s north side was ridiculed by members of the public and even deemed “awful” and “terrible” by Mayor Naheed Nenshi.
2015 FOREST LAWN LIFT STATION (WATERSHED+) — If you’ve ever wondered how much raw sewage is flowing under Forest Lawn in real-time, this $246,000 art piece has you covered. dubbed the “pretty poop palace” by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (who also named it for a public waste award), the Led-lit map of the sewage lines in southeast Calgary raised both eyebrows and hackles, with some neighbours complaining the project blocked their view of the city skylines and mountains.