In January 2007, the Utilities and Environmental Protection Department (UEP) launched its visionary Public Art Plan
. The plan is founded on the principle that public art, in collaboration with other disciplines, can create remarkable places that encourage sustainability and stewardship of the environment.
A 'call to artists' was issued for the Visual Language Project, one of eight projects within the Plan that relate specifically to the man-made watershed of UEP infrastructure in conjunction with the extended watershed of the Bow River. Artist team Sans façon was awarded the commission and asked to create a unified, iconographic or symbolic language that would map and identify UEP infrastructure with the purpose of educating users to the larger context of the natural watershed and the systems managed by UEP.
Through the research and development phase of the project, Sans façon identified an ambitious interpretation of the goals and deliverables. The visual language concept provided the vision for WATERSHED+, a program which will creatively renew the relationship between Calgarians and watershed.
WATERSHED+ presents a unique approach to public art and a distinct way of working within City departments, the public, and other stakeholders. Artists and artistic practices are embedded within UEP core activities, participating as members on infrastructure design teams, contributing to project design, development of events, community education and communication.
Through the implementation of WATERSHED+, UEP positions itself as a global leader in their commitment and approach to collaborative and creative projects involving the watershed.
All initiatives within the Watershed+ program will reflect the following beliefs:
- Increase awareness – WATERSHED+ contributes to a greater awareness and knowledge of the watershed and its issues, provoking genuine curiosity and interest in the processes;
- Collaborative working – Cross-disciplinary collaborative processes bring about enriched experience, innovative work and strong products;
- Widening opportunity – A spirit of openness, a wide-reaching knowledge base and on-going encouragement brings about greater capacity, confidence and further advancement for all;
- Contribute to City identity – WATERSHED+ can contribute to a positive environmental and cultural identity for the city and its citizens locally and globally;
- Place and culture specific – UEP's infrastructure projects and initiatives can be expressive of and distinctive to their location and culture; and
- Enrichment of Urban Life – Considered water management initiatives and infrastructure, which is conscious of its design and aesthetic, can enrich Calgary's experience of urban life and stimulate creative parallels with the wild watershed and enjoyment of the great outdoors.
For more information, download the Watershed+ manual.
The team of Sans façon began as an investigation between British artist, Tristan Surtees, and French architect, Charles Blanc, and has developed into an ongoing collaboration.
Together since 2001, they have undertaken diverse projects, both temporary and permanent, as interventions, public works, publications and exhibitions - predominantly exploring the complex relationship between people and 'place'. Their work often takes a spatial or sculptural form, yet the works are united through their appropriation of a context rather than the use of a particular technique or medium.
Other members of the interdisciplinary team include Eric Laurier (social geographer), Yan Olivares (architect), Matt Baker (artist/architect), Emlyn Firth (graphic designer) and Bert Van Duin (engineer).
Four local artists have been selected to mentor under WATERSHED+’s lead artists Tristan Surtees and Charles Blanc.
Interdisciplinary artist Randy Niessen, Environmental and Graphic Designer Daniel Puloski, Multidisciplinary artist and art educator Jamie Hobbs and Bow Valley sculptor Peig Abbott will work with Tristan and Charles over the next 18 months to implement this visionary public art program that will position The City of Calgary as a global leader in collaborative and creative projects involving the watershed.
The mentees were chosen via open call process - more information on the mentorship program and positions can be found here
The WATERSHED+ Artist Residency program at Ralph Klein Park (RKP) is part of the ground-breaking WATERSHED+ Pilot Project. Various artists will be in residence at RKP between now and December 2013. Through their art practice, the residency artists will engage the community in a dialogue, and explore issues relevant to Calgary’s watershed, water management and the Park environment.
Meet Nick Millar and Minty Donald - Artists-in-Residence for May and August 2013
More information on the artist residencies can be found here.
The UEP Public Art Plan
Watershed+ is the cornerstone of the UEP Public Art Plan in that it provides a cohesive and elegant visual language for identifying, mapping and codifying the watershed systems. The first of its kind in North America, the UEP Public Art Plan is founded on the principle that public art, in collaboration with other disciplines, can create remarkable places that encourage sustainability and stewardship of the environment.