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Seton Recreation Facility Public Art Project

The Seton Recreation Facility is one of four new recreation facilities being developed by The City of Calgary to meet our growing city’s need for convenient access to recreation opportunities and to support the important role recreation plays in building compete communities. The facility will act as a community hub where people of all ages and abilities can come together to play, learn, exercise, train, relax and have fun. 

Situated in the heart of a vibrant urban centre in southeast Calgary, the Seton recreation facility will provide a blend of leisure, sports, cultural and recreational amenities for individuals and families as well as competitive sport venues for groups and organizations. The approximately 330,000 sq. ft. facility will focus on bringing a growing community together, and become the heart of activity in a dynamic area. With not only spectacular sports facilities, but also art studios, a theatre and a library, it will be a place for the diverse community to gather and interact.

​​The Public Art concept

Artist's concept rendering
Artist's concept rendering
This multi-use, multi-generational centre will itself be a nest – a place of nurture, growth, meeting and discovery. The artist has taken the image of The Nest as a symbol of community.  

The Nest will have four different components: The Nest itself, and three flocks of birds.

The Nest, a large sculpture made out of acrylic branches, will be suspended overhead in the nexus of the main floor circulation area, where the skylight is located. The three flocks of birds will each be sculpted to portray a different species of bird, familiar to and loved by the Seton community. Arrayed in the three arms of the circulation area, the birds will be flying toward the nest, and each bird will be carrying a new branch to contribute. The imagery of the piece in its entirety will depict community values of industry, teamwork and common purpose. 

The project is expected to be completed in 2018 and the public art budget was $750,000.

Artist's concept rendering
Artist's concept rendering

The Artist

Donald Lipski is a sculptor, perhaps best known for his poetic combining and altering of existing things, for enigmatic and energetic installation works, and for his public sculptures. He has been producing art for over three decades, and is responsible for public artworks in many busy locations such as Grand Central Terminal in New York City, the Washington D.C Convention Center, Miami International Airport and San Antonio’s River Walk district.
Artist Donald Lipski, Photo courtesy of Terry Hyland
Artist Donald Lipski, Photo courtesy of Terry Hyland
Since Lipski’s Museum of Modern Art installation Gathering Dust in 1979—thousands of tiny sculptures pinned to the walls—his work has gotten bigger, bolder and more public. But, as Lipski says, "the essence, freeing my mind, experimenting and inventing and making my thoughts visible, hasn’t changed".  

"I aim to create artworks that are dynamic, surprising, thoughtful and engaging. I believe that sculptures that challenge people and encourage discussion have the most likelihood of withstanding the test of time, of indeed becoming landmarks and sources of pride for the community. My goal is to create artwork that will serve as an enticement to both the community and visitors," says Lispki. In the last two decades, the artist has mostly devoted himself to making works for the public. He says he has done this for two important reasons: It matters and it’s hard.  

"It matters because it elevates those who encounter it, leads them to think differently about the world. Public art becomes part of our daily lives, touchstones that become factors in defining a place, a city, indeed a culture."

Lipski is very excited and honored to be chosen to create a work for the new Seton recreation facility, and since being chosen as the artist has worked with community members and other stakeholders to develop a rich understanding of the project. 

"I’ve been to Calgary several times in the last few years, and see it as a wonderful, dynamic city. I’ll be thrilled to play a small role in your cultural landscape. What you are building here at Seton is fantastic. It is truly a facility for everybody—from toddlers to seniors, from beginners to accomplished athletes. It will be a place to play, to learn, to exercise, to socialize, to watch a play or event, to just have fun. I’m sure it will become a hub of the community. Your building will be wonderful—light, open, readable, intuitive. The facilities will be amazing. It’s so comprehensive. There will be a strong, open relationship between sports, recreation and culture. I can’t wait to get started!"

Community Engagement

One of Donald’s aspirations for the Seton recreation facility is to bring nature indoors in a fanciful way. During his research and meetings with local community members, Donald discovered there were hundreds of species of birds in Alberta. Often times the birds in our communities inspire and touch the lives of Calgarians. Therefore, a significant aspect of the art concept that the artist is developing will involve the use of bird imagery.

To ensure the final piece is meaningful and resonates with Calgarians, and in particular the people who will be using the Seton recreation facility, Donald gathered information from the local community and Calgarians as a whole via an online survey in February 2015. Through the survey he gathered views on what species respondents felt should be portrayed in the artwork. The survey asked people to reflect on whether they'd like to see the birds that nest in their yard, the more unusual birds rarely glimpsed in Calgary, a species that returns to our city every spring, or those that stay all year round, as well as whether a specific bird has a special meaning for personal or cultural reasons. 

Why this project?

The commission of this public artwork followed The City’s standard process of industry best practices, including the initiation of an open international call to artists and tasking a project-specific selection panel to select the artist. This work is made possible through the Public Art Policy.

When selecting Donald Lipski as the successful artist, the selection panel of Calgarians noted that his past work is accessible, recognizable and reflects the communities in which it’s installed. The artist is extremely approachable, capable and experienced in carrying out sophisticated and well-respected public art projects.
Donald Lipski now serves as a member of the Seton recreation facility capital project design team. The public art budget covers all aspects to conceive, design, produce, and install the artwork.