A weekend of local art in Calgary

By Sarah Sussman

Calgary is one of the best art hubs in the country and is home to an array of talented visual artists, controversial art displays, stunning museum exhibits and more. Here’s a handy guide to enjoying a weekend of Calgary art. [Photo credit: Maya Gohill, portraits of Phil & Sebastian]

A weekend of local art in Calgary

Hot coffee, hot art

If you’re starting the day off with your obligatory cup of coffee, head to one of many Calgary coffee shops that supports local artists. Phil & Sebastian is a local favourite and the company’s 4th Street location displays two Maya Gohill portraits of the owners. Maya is a Calgary artist known for her satirical portrait paintings.

Kawa is an espresso bar and arts hub that displays a constantly rotating selection of locally-made visual art. Most artwork is available for purchase, so inquire with your barista if something catches your eye. Philosafy on 17th Avenue boasts a minimalist aesthetic, scattered with locally-made art pieces, many of which feature paintings of the Calgary skyline and our architectural claim-to-fame, the Calgary Tower.

If you’re more of a tea fan, The Naked Leaf in Kensington is a locally owned and operated tea shop that prints local art on its tea tins.

Galleries and museums

The Glenbow Museum has a constantly rotating lineup of exhibitions, along with several permanent museum displays. Head up to the second floor to see the Art of Asia exhibit, featuring a massive collection of Hindu and Buddhist artifacts and artwork. Next door, visit the Picturing The Northwest exhibit to take in some of the most striking visual interpretations of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

Nearby, Contemporary Calgary is housed inside the Centennial Planetarium (at the former location of Telus Spark). Admission is free and the gallery features a constantly rotating line-up of exhibits and events that explore controversial and timely subject matter.

Contemporary also hosts events and exhibits in the community. Head to the newly-opened Simons department store at The Core to see the Utopia Factory. This installation features a pop-up coffee shop (courtesy of Kaffeeklatsch) as well as an interactive “living wall” installation and a reading room (courtesy of Shelf Life Books). This way, you can pull double-duty by supporting Calgary art while getting in some weekend mall shopping. While you're visiting Simons, be sure to check out Maya Gohill's mural.

Play tag

Calgary has a growing graffiti art scene and several graffiti installations that have become artistic local landmarks. Kensington is home to a large installation by Mr. Earthfolk, which is displayed on two stacked crates located just near the Sunnyside C-Train station in front of Vendome Café.

Venturing further into the heart of Kensington, the graffiti alleyway near Oak Tree Tavern is a hidden gem art getaway, with murals of words, visuals and striking colours.

If you’re nursing a weekend hangover with some greasy grubs, check out the patio behind The Big Cheese on 17th Avenue for another lesser-known graffiti installation. The Big Cheese patio has colourful murals tagged by Jesse Gouchey and Aerisolic with colourful, kitschy imagery including ravens, rappers, ghosts and more.

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Public art finds

In 2004, Calgary city council implemented the Public Art Program to increase and integrate public art into the city. Over the years, the city has added a slew of creative and interactive art pieces and installations into public areas throughout the city.

One of the most striking public art installations in the city is the TransitStory installation by Jill Anholt, located on the Centre Street C-Train platform along 7th Avenue. If you find yourself on the south end of the city, keep your eyes out for Derek Besant’s Skywalk art installation on the Canyon Meadows pedestrian overpass near the Canyon Meadows C-Train station. The 14-panel installation features a mural of blue skies on a sunny day.

If you’re looking for public art in the later hours of the day, head over to Barb Scott Park to see Joe O’Connell and Blessing Hancock’s Chinook Arc installation. The illuminated sculpture is also interactive and glows different colours at night. The piece was made to represent the vivacity of the Beltline community, while taking on the form of the Chinook arch phenomenon.

With so much art to see and so little time, take a weekend and familiarize yourself with some of the many artists, artworks and installations around the city. Whether you’re grabbing a cup of coffee, checking out the shopping mall, hunting for public art or simply strolling around your neighbourhood, take the time to appreciate all the art around you.

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