Great Plains Recreation Facility Public Art

This project was one of four public art projects that have been developed as part of The City’s investment in new Recreation facilities including Great Plains, Quarry Park, Rocky Ridge and Seton. A public art plan allowed for the strategic allocation of funds so that the public art at each facility is appropriate in terms of budget, scale and scope.

The artist Matthew Geller worked with the local community and as part of the building’s design team to develop One Puck Hollow, a public artwork for the Great Plains Recreation Facility. His worked to encourage an integrated design concept and ensure that the public art supports and is supported by the overall building design. The project was approved in 2013 with a budget of $150k and was completed in 2016.

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The Artist

With all of his work, Matthew Geller sets out to engage the public and foster a sense of community. The works are playful, accessible, and very often unexpected. By using disparate elements in surprising and interactive ways, his work aims to disarm and enchant, which encourages engagement with the work and among viewers themselves. Geller is particularly drawn to overlooked or underutilized environments, which includes anything from private imaginary worlds within brick walls to back alleys to sprawling open public spaces. It is here that he teases out small fragments of narrative by augmenting or amplifying the raw materials. He asks the viewer to engage with both what was always there as well as what might be.

Matthew lives and works in New York City, and has received many fellowships and grants including from the American Academy in Rome, The National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation from the Arts.

The Artist Mentee

Matthew Geller worked with mentee artist, Sophie-Anne Belisle on a Community Cultural Development plan titled New Recreation Centre Art Walk to be implemented at Rocky Ridge, Seton, Quarry Park and Great Plains recreation facilities.

The Concept

Asked to consider the Great Plains facility as an arena that hosts both spectators and players, Matthew Geller’s landform public artwork One Puck Hollow took inspiration from key features of the hockey rink; the face-off circle, the red and blue lines, and the boards separating the rink from the spectator. His goal was to create a space that functions playfully as an amphitheatre-like space where people can gather, watch performances and play games. The artwork also provides a respite from the hustle and bustle of the indoor rinks with a gentle slope ideal for relaxing and reclining.

Integrated into the landscape adjacent to the entrance of the Great Plains Recreation Facility, One Puck Hollow acts as the facility’s third arena if you will, complimenting the two rinks built inside which will be used primarily for hockey and ringette. It provides a gathering space outside for spectators, siblings and parents of amateur athletes. It is designed to highlight the intense focus of the athlete and the spirit of the spectator.

The first public artwork in Calgary to leverage snow as an essential element, One Puck Hollow is designed to provide contrast and stand out on cold snowy winter nights when most families will be frequenting the new recreation facility. In fact, as the time of day, weather and seasons change, the artwork is designed to respond to those changes. It may appear as a subtle infiltration in the landscape on a warm summer day, and in the dark wintery evening as an intensely vivid splash of colour on the cold, snow-covered ground.

Without snow on the ground, the polished stainless steel rail at ground level reflects the colours of the sky. Equally seductive at night, it now changes colour as it reflects the LED lights hidden on the underside of the upper red rail. From day-to-day the colour gradually changes based on the average temperature in Calgary. When the ground is snow covered, in the daytime, the LED lights create a subtle circular line of colour on the snow. As the snow gets deeper, the line of light gets narrower and the light gets brighter. At night, the railing becomes less visible and the snow glows brightly.

The rail for One Puck Hollow is created using the exact dimensions of a face-off circle, and is 30 feet in diameter. The two smallest rectangular sections, which are directly opposite each other, represent the goals. The centre rock suggests the puck and a fireless campfire, and is the diameter of a face-off spot at 2’ across.

The Selection

Matthew Geller was chosen via open international call and selected by a project-specific selection panel of Calgarians. The artist and concept were selected in two stages by the selection panel. Voting members of the selection panel included three arts and design professionals and representatives from Calgary Recreation and Sports Calgary. They were supported by Canlan Ice Sports the facility operators, the building architects Marshall Tittemore Architects and Calgary Neighbourhoods.

Matthew Geller was chosen for his enthusiasm and imaginative approach for the project, his past work and his understanding of how the final piece should reflect the needs of the community.

As an artist and hockey mom, Teresa Posyniak was enthusiastic about sitting on the selection panel for the Great Plains Recreation Facility public art project, and excited to see the piece come to life.

"With One Puck Hollow, Matthew Geller not only refers to the well-known face-off circle with red and blue lines but he turns it into something very unique. Surrounded by the red railings and sloped to the centre 'puck' area, it becomes a kind of sacred hockey space where teams and coaches can meet, where kids can play, where people can escape the familiar madness inside the building and still feel like they're part of the hockey atmosphere,” says Posyniak. “Within its simplicity, there’s a complexity of materials, of form, of colour and light, all working with the environment, especially the snow, an element which isn't usually incorporated into public sculpture. I wish One Puck Hollow had been around during the years I spent in hockey arenas with my children. It's a public artwork that's meant to be used in myriad ways as well as appreciated for its visual qualities."

The Community

The City worked with the artist to identify community engagement opportunities which included an online survey and an artist-led community workshop to introduce himself, review the initial concept of One Puck Hollow and test the playing field of the artwork on local children to ensure that they found it fun and engaging. The workshop was held in a large indoor space and at a skateboard park so that the children could help to develop the concept for the artwork through various games and challenges. It became clear that the community wanted a defined play space in the landscape while illuminating the surrounding area.

Living and working in New York, Matthew Geller immediately saw the value in hiring local talent to execute the project, particularly for their expertise in Calgary’s weather, construction, engineering and landscaping processes. Calgary companies; Graham Construction, Year Round Landscaping, Crestview Electric, IBI Group, F&D Scene Changes and Heavy Industries were hired for design, construction, landscape architecture and installation of the landform artwork.

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