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Wishing Well

In June 2022, the Wishing Well public art piece was relocated to a new, publicly accessible square outside Bridge at Bridgeland, a multi-family rental living space and retail development by JEMM Properties at 950 McPherson Square N.E.

About the artwork

Wishing Well was designed by renowned artist team Living Lenses (Louise Bertelsen and Po Shu Wang) of San Francisco. It is made of stainless steel and weighs 2200 kilograms. It measures 3.88 metres tall, 5.36 metres wide and 4 metres deep. 

Since its unveiling, the art piece has been a hive of activity and helped to create a popular meeting spot in the community. Visitors not only admire its beauty, but also marvel at its interactive nature. Participants can text a greeting or a wish to the sculpture (587-327-9939) then step inside to experience their message translated into a symphony of light and sound.

Value for investment

The City partnered with JEMM Properties, a local community developer, to relocate the Wishing Well public art piece. This partnership is a great example of our new direction for public art and paves the way for future collaborations with the local private sector.

The original public art budget for the piece was $700,000. It included artwork design, fabrication, engineering, install and contingencies. Thanks to the partnership with JEMM Properties, the sculpture is able to once again be enjoyed by Calgarians at no additional cost to taxpayers.

The Wishing Well sculpture remains part of The City of Calgary public art collection and we continue to oversee its conservation and maintenance.

Sculpture history

The Wishing Well was originally installed at the Genesis Centre in the city’s northeast in 2012. Although it was well-loved in that location, the sculpture was removed in 2014 due to safety challenges.

Over the years, The City explored several locations, and alterations to the artwork to ensure it could be enjoyed safely, without incurring significant additional expenses. It was important to find the right balance of technical modifications and location – somewhere that would provide intermittent shade, but also where Calgarians could connect and interact with this work.

In 2019, we were notified of a potential partnership with JEMM Properties to relocate the Wishing Well to complement their community development project in Bridgeland. 

This opportunity turned out to be a perfect fit.

A non-reflective coating was applied to the interior of the sculpture to eliminate the possibility for the inside curve of the sculpture to concentrate reflective sunlight. In addition, the new location and orientation of the sculpture greatly reduces sunlight reflections for nearby drivers and pedestrians. By placing the Wishing Well on a 20-degree angle facing west-east, the sculpture will receive the least amount of sunlight exposure during the day. Sunlight exposure will further be minimized with the sculpture being placed next to a high-rise condo building.

Ahead of the install in Bridgeland, we also worked with a local IT company to upgrade the interactive multimedia component that gives the sculpture its name and allows visitors to send the Wishing Well a text message which it converts into light and sound.

Artist statement

This is a community wishing well where your words become music to our ears and colours to our eyes. You are both the composer and the audience of this ongoing symphony of light and sound.

Text a message, a greeting or a wish to 1-587-327-9939.

Your words will be processed into braille text dots which are then sent to a virtual music box. This music box contains the recorded voices of your fellow neighbours and it will interpret your words into melody – singing your message back to you. Your message will also be translated into a colour pattern of lights.

If no one is texting, the sculpture will present this message through light and sound.

Even the most meaningless of words dropped in this bottomless wishing well, are endlessly descending through a sensible universe. Sooner or later, they will resonate with a particular consciousness, recognizing the momentary self of desire, wishes, and dreams. This is music to our ears, ringing contentment in our hearts and minds. Each note acquires meaning from the last and the next to eternity. It is our song of strength and inspiration, and all without singing.