Meet me at the public art

Date: Sep 13, 2016

To celebrate 25 years of the AFA, we’re taking a look back at how we came to be, favourite milestones, and some of the amazing artists we’ve encountered along the way. 

By Gail Lint, Art Collections Consultant

October 1st, 2016 will celebrate the second year of the AFA Public Art Commission Program. The program is designed to assist not-for-profit organizations to administer and commission site specific public art projects. The final artwork becomes part of the AFA collection and is installed on long-term loan with the organization. The artwork is readily accessible and enhances public space often evolving into a community landmark.

Although the program has only been in existence for the past 2 years art commissions are not a new form of acquisition for the AFA collection. The new Public Art Commission Program evolved from past partnerships with other art organizations in the province.

It really began in 2007 in the beautiful Rocky Mountains with the Banff Centre in partnership with the AFA to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the creation of the Banff Centre. Both institutions provided funding to commission an artwork for the AFA collection which remains on public display on the grounds of the Centre. The commission process involved an invitational competition of 6 Alberta artists reviewed through a peer jury process.

Mark Clintberg was awarded the commission for the outdoor installation Meet Me in the Woods, 2010 Read a descriptor of the artwork:

Mark Clintberg, Meet Me in the Woods, 2010, polyurethane paint, reflective vinyl on aluminium

Mark Clintberg, Meet Me in the Woods, 2010, polyurethane paint, reflective vinyl on aluminium

Mark Clintberg, Meet Me in the Woods, 2010, (reverse of the signage for Meet Me in the Woods)

The next art commission partnership takes us to the southeast corner of the province to the “Hat”. The commission partnership with the Esplanade Arts and Heritage Centre in Medicine Hat began in 2009 with an invitational competition sent to 5 Alberta artists seeking an installation to grace the grounds of the front entrance of the newly constructed Esplanade.

The commission was awarded to Calgary based artist Blake Senini for his sculpture Turn, Turn, Turn (A Resting Place) which was unveiled to the public October 1st, 2011 coinciding with the 4th Alberta Arts Days celebrations (now Alberta Culture Days).

From the artist’s statement on the artwork:

“Turn Turn Turn

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die, a time to plant and time to pluck up that which is planted….

Pete Seeger’s 1959 song sums up this sculpture’s underlying themes: a series of contrasts that provoke different, even opposing interpretations. The wing forms are derived from the wings of an arctic tern enlarged to human scale. Their arrangement spirals upward yet remains grounded to the earth and resembles other structures familiar to southeastern Alberta such as haystacks, wood fires, teepees and mountains.

Turn Turn Turn is a place to relax and contemplate the thoughts that it may evoke in the visitor; a place to sit and watch events, both natural and of the human kind, a resting place.”

Blake Senini

Blake Senini, Turn Turn Turn (A Resting Place), 2011, aluminium and concrete

During the same time frame as the development of the Esplanade commission project there were two other AFA commissions in the making. We now find ourselves in the Southern (Calgary) and Northern (Edmonton) Jubilee Auditoria built in 1955 to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of the province. Through a partnership with Alberta Jubilee Auditoria Society (AJAS) and the AFA two new artworks were commissioned for the AFA collection. The commission was an invitational call to 20 artists for an artwork for each of the buildings to be installed on the grand staircase leading from the main floor to the 1st balcony. Commissions were awarded to Canmore artist and sculptor Tony Bloom for the Northern Jubilee (NAJA) and Edmonton based artist and printmaker Liz Ingram for the Southern Jubilee (SAJA) – that’s right the south journeyed north and the north travelled south!!

Tony Bloom’s wall mounted sculpture Fanfare “echoes the fan shape of Greek amphitheaters with a structural surface that represents the language used in theatre: music scores, lyrics, dance notation, lighting, “plots”, scripts, stage directions etc.”

Tony Bloom, Fanfare, 2011, copper, bronze, silver, stainless steel

Liz Ingram’s Confluence Through the Looking Glass is an ambitious printed installation and monumental wall piece that incorporates the human figure in motion and the elements of water and sky at different times of day. The artist states: “The beauty of the human body in motion and the portrayal of dancers in action relate directly to activities that often occur on the stages of the Jubliee. The background images of the atmosphere, clouds, sky and water relate to our environment and are developed from the space we inhabit in Alberta.”

Liz Ingram, Confluence Through the Looking Glass, 2011, dye sublimation digital prints, polyester, tempered glass, techno graphic interlayer polyester, aluminium, steel 

Both of these artworks are on public display in the Jubilee Auditoria and if you have not had an opportunity to experience them either attend an event or visit the buildings during the daytime, introduce yourself to the security guard and enrich your day with some amazing Alberta public art.

Other commissioned AFA artworks that have been produced in partnership with public art facilities include Hunting Blind 2011, a collaborative installation by Robin Arsenault and Paul Jackson installed on the outdoor terrace of the Art Gallery of Alberta in Edmonton;

Robin Arsenault and Paul Jackson, Hunting Blind, 2011, mixed media

Acclaimed and internationally celebrated artist David Hoffos’ new media installation installed for external viewing at the new CASA community art facility in Lethbridge;

David Hoffos, The People in the Window, 2014, 3 channel video & mixed media installation

The Art Gallery of Grande Prairie in celebration of their new world class facility has recently installed an outdoor night viewing projection, also by artist David Hoffos entitled Night School, 2011-2015 commissioned through a partnership with the AFA.

The new downtown Centre for Arts and Communication located at MacEwan University (which replaced the west end campus) unveiled a major commission by Edmonton-based artist and MacEwan alumni, Brenda Draney in 2017.

So keep your eyes open for public art next time you are out and about in Alberta…it has been created for your enjoyment!