Edmonton Tourist: South East Public Art

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One of my favourite things about Vancouver after the Ocean and the Mountains is the abundance of public art. You can find it on most street corners downtown and always in pubic parks. My favourite piece is the A-maze-ing Laughter found at English Bay. Visiting Vancouver turned me on to public art in a way I never noticed in Edmonton.

Some people I know usually talk about art in terms of its stupidity or waste of money. Someone always has an opinion on how to spend tax dollars better. I think public art is culturally important. It helps identifies us as a people who recognize the value arts brings into a community. No doubt art is subjective. You either love it or hate it but its intent is to make you feel and start a conversation.

In 1991, Edmonton passed a policy called Percent for Art. Currently, Edmonton allocates 1% of the qualifying construction budget of any publicly accessible municipal project (% project) for the procurement of art to be publicly displayed. The Edmonton Arts Council is the steward of this program. I never thought of Edmonton as a city invested in the arts, I looked at the public art in Edmonton as an element of design – not a city being deliberate in supporting the arts. Then I stumbled upon THIS WEBSITE. It is an online gallery of all the public art in Edmonton.

It was as if I woke up.

That meant the giant shoes at the Southgate LRT were deliberately put there as public art. The Talus Dome, arguably Edmonton’s most controversial art installation is also a part of this program.  “Before the Quesnell bridge was constructed, talus forms of earth occurred naturally along the river valley. The artwork reminds us of the landscape that has been altered by the bridge, a rigid, controlled construction that meets our need to traverse the obstacle of the river. It refers to the coexistence of the man-made and the natural.”  Okay – so there is significance to the sculpture. It was all coming together for me.

As I scrolled through the City of Edmonton Public Art Gallery, I decided to tour my ‘hood and check out the different pieces of public art. I am guilty of travelling to the river valley far too often to explore Edmonton and I never looked at my neighbourhood as a place to tour. I made a list of the public art pieces in my neighbourhood and spent an afternoon exploring. My East-West grid was 17 street – 91 street. My North-South grid was Whitemud Freeway to Ellerslie Road.

Landscape Series 1 by Erin Ross was my first stop. This installation is located at Mill Woods Park on the northside of the building by the football field. All prairie paintings that showcase Alberta skies.

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Next stop was Mill Woods Public Library for three separate installations.

Jordie Bonet’s Untitled. 10 panels each weighing over 2000lbs. Can you imagine the undertaking it took to install this piece? It was originally located at the Cenntenial Library before it became the Stanley Milner. This is located in the fiction section on the east side of the library.

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This next piece, Phantasien by Tim Edler and Jan Edler is inspired by The Neverending Story. It is a study room clad in mirror with coloured lights. Its kind of trippy and students were studying in it. But I can see the appeal of being in there. Art can be functional too.

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Upstairs in the Mill Woods Senior Centre is Milled Wood by Destiny Swiderski.

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After leaving the Library, I travelled a block away to the South Division Police Station to see the nine canvasses of Encompass by Allen Ball.

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Then off to Ivor Dent Sports Field to see Inspiral Arches from one of my favourite artists, Dylan Toymaker. If you have been to Victoria Oval or the Flying Canoe Festival and have seen the light installations, then you are already familiar with Toymaker’s work.

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It was time to go closer to home and visit the Meadows. The Meadows Recreation Centre and Public Library also has a couple installations. My favourite is Wheatfield with Crows by Konstantin Dimopoulos. I love how it sways in the breeze just like wheatfields.

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Inside the library was Sculpture in Landscapes by Cliff Eyland. Catalogue card-sized landscapes. This was a cool choice for the library.

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And finally, Parade 1 by Gabe Wong (Parade two is aquatic animals located at Lewis Transit Centre) located on the west side of the Meadows Transit Centre. The ladybug is my favourite.

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Wandering around my neighbourhood gave me a better appreciation for where I live and the fact that we have art accessible to everyone thrills me. I wonder who notices it? Let me know your favourite Edmonton Piece – maybe I will visit it next!

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