If you need a break from the city’s fast pace and crowds while in the midst of its heartbeat, outdoor art can be a wonderful antidote to slow you down. Or indoor art in public places, such as the stained glass of Mount Rundle below, taken inside St. Paul’s Church, in downtown Banff.
Not every city or town is graced with enough large scale outdoor art. I’ve been lucky to live in several Canadian cities where there was conscious effort to plant some iconic artpieces to ponder and enjoy. A lot of is noticeable by a slow moving car, while other pieces require to be at eye level as a pedestrian or cyclist.
When I first came to Calgary, I was bemused to see the landmark upside-down church sculpture, A Device to Root Out Evil. It caused a lot of public discussion in Vancouver when it was nosing down temporarily in a rich neighbourhood of Coal Harbour, with backdrop views of ocean and North Shore mountains.
I was delighted to first see it in the Ramsay neighbourhood and now a few years later, in East Village area for the next 4 years. People do walk or cycle up to the area to shoot photos, rest in benches or rickety chic chairs.
While strolling down a street, with a sudden turn, you are reminded of local history. In Edmonton we nearly passed by a Ukranian Centre where there was a whole façade of glass mosaic mural art. A blend of an idyllic dream world of a woman lazying over a book and another playing a musical instrument.
In downtown Toronto, by Women’s College Hospital on College St. by Dr. Emily Stowe Way, there is a utility box art of early local women suffragettes. Emily Stowe, created the first Canadian Women’s Suffragette Association and was first female medical doctor to practice in Ontario in 1867. Although the backside of the utility box, features black women, her association was not concerned with the situation of First Nations nor women of colour during her tenure.
Local art can unabashedly, reveal gaps and mortar filling in knowledge of history and socio-economic layers of influence on the artist and why even the art may have been chosen at that point in history.
We want public art that is easy on the eyes, easy to recognize and to understand –something that aligns our world view, not someone else’s view. It allows us to float through the neighbourhood and leave, sometimes barely remembering anything long after we’ve left the area. There’s always a lot of that art meant to remind us of beauty, awe and splendor. For those who live in the area, the residents do deserve some simple pleasures of art to grace their world –for free.
I’d like to think that there are some outdoor or permanent public art installations, we return from time to time to revisit and ponder, show visitors and friends to see their reactions.
Meanwhile, take this jaunt along with me of public and outdoor art for the cities where I’ve lived or have been.
Feature photo on left in downtown Calgary, mural in 2020.