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New direction for public art

Calgary’s public art is heading in an exciting new direction. Calgary Arts Development was chosen in 2021 to take over the commissioning of new public art projects. Building on their strengths and proven track record of supporting the arts in Calgary, Calgary Arts Development will ensure Calgarians are closely connected to the art that’s created.

We are now working with Calgary Arts Development to transfer knowledge, best practices and the operations of key public art projects and initiatives. We’re doing this while staying true to Calgarians’ vision for public art which we gathered from extensive research and engagement with more than 11,000 residents between 2018 and 2020.

Calgary Arts Development is expected to fully take over new public art development by 2024, and is dedicated to delivering a positive, meaningful, varied, nimble and enriching public art program that builds on Calgary’s reputation on the world stage as a prosperous, vibrant and livable city.

Connected to community

The new direction for public art in Calgary will reduce barriers for local artists to participate, increase transparency for Calgarians, and grow investment in the local creative economy. 
  • There will be more opportunities for collaboration with Calgarians, neighbourhood groups and local businesses, so the creation of art will be more reflective of community priorities.
  • The process to commission artists will be simpler and more transparent, allowing for a more diverse pool of artists to create public art.
  • Funds will not be tied to infrastructure projects, meaning there will be more flexibility to provide a variety of programming, projects and locations for public art.
  • Education programs will be expanded. That means there will be more tools and support for artists as well as more education opportunities for Calgarians.
  • Communications will be localized, responsive and flexible. A new engagement approach allow a broader range of community members to participate in the creation of public art.

How it will work

Both Calgary Arts Development and The City will adhere to the Public Art Policy which directs how tax payer dollars are used to commission new artworks, acquire existing artworks, deliver public art activities and events, provide access to the public art collection and maintain and conserve the collection.

The City will continue to fund public art by setting aside one percent of eligible capital project budgets. This model remains responsive to upturns and downturns in the economy.

After new public art is commissioned by Calgary Arts Development, ownership of the art will remain with Calgarians. The City will continue to be responsible for preserving and caring for that collection through conservation and maintenance.

About Calgary Arts Development

As Calgary’s designated arts development authority, Calgary Arts Development supports and strengthens the arts to benefit all Calgarians through programs that support hundreds of artists, arts organizations, artist collectives, and arts events.

Their vision is a creative connected city through the arts. To Calgary Arts Development, creativity is the currency of the 21st century, one that fuels vitality, prosperity, well-being, joy, resiliency, and a sense of belonging and connectedness.

Public art is an investment in artistic creation. It strengthens local artists by providing them with opportunities to develop their craft in the public realm through hands-on experience, commissions, and mentoring opportunities. It also creates an environment of artistic exchange, with international artists having opportunities to create work in Calgary, and local artists finding opportunities to showcase their work at home

History at Council

September 30, 2019

On September 30, 2019, Council directed Administration to hire a third-party consultant to review the public art program. They were tasked with examining options for the program to be managed by an external organization. Doing so would help:

  • Deliver a streamlined program for Calgarians
  • Reduce red-tape and be more directly connected with the arts community and Calgarians
  • Allow a more holistic and equitable approach to public art projects across Calgary that doesn’t have to be tied to new infrastructure
  • Create better accountability, transparency and flexibility in how public art is implemented across the city​
  • Attract a more diverse range of artists and allow art in more varied locations throughout Calgary

November 25, 2019

On November 25, 2019, the consultant, Art + Public UnLtd, shared their findings publicly at Council.

April 6, 2020

On April 6, 2020 Council approved that Administration should proceed with next steps to move the public art program to an external organization. These steps included:

  • Engagement with the public and arts stakeholders on what they’d like to see in a future public art program
  • Developing a procurement process to select an external organization to operate the future program

Selection panel

Choosing the right organization to run Calgary's public art program was a big responsibility. Four Calgarians including two Calgarians-at-large and two arts professionals from Calgary’s arts community were chosen through an open competition to be part of a seven-person selection panel. The selection panel was committed to ensuring the right organizations was chosen.

Make up of selection panel

The seven-person selection panel was made up of:

  • One member of the consultant group Art + Public UnLtd
  • One City of Calgary Administration member
  • One official from another municipality that operates a public art program through a third party
  • Two Calgarians-at-large
  • Two arts professionals from Calgary’s arts community

Statement from selection panel

With the public art program moving to an arm's length organization, the selection panel was tasked with choosing an organization with a strong reputation, and a mandate that aligned with a vision for fostering local artists and engaging our community.

The City of Calgary conducted extensive consultations with the citizens of Calgary who confirmed that public art is important to them, and that the program needed to be delivered in a way which creates a vibrant legacy of art, representing the diversity of Calgary, while utilizing and fostering the talents of its local artists.

Over its 15-year history, Calgary Arts Development Authority has demonstrated a strong record of:

  • support for local artists;
  • educational and community-building activities;
  • financial responsibility in stewarding public funds;
  • creative and committed partnerships, working collaboratively with respected institutions in Calgary / Moh’kinsstis; and
  • a dedication to public transparency and accountability.

In addition, Calgary Arts Development's decolonization efforts, characterized by a sense of inclusiveness and responsiveness to diversity in our communities, were notable assets to operating the public art program for all citizens.

The public art program selection panel strongly believes that Calgary Arts Development is the ideal organization to steward the next phase of the public art program in Calgary, while augmenting the program with educational programming and community outreach. Calgarians can look forward to what the future holds for art in our local communities and urban spaces around the city.

Engagement with Calgarians

2020 engagement

To determine the new direction for public art, we needed to understand the expectations and priorities of Calgarians for public art in our city. From February to June 2020, the consultant Art + Public UnLtd led extensive engagement with Calgarians and the arts community. We heard input from almost 3000 Calgarians through:

  • One-on-one interviews with arts community stakeholders (March-May 2020)
    • Participants included members of the public art board, the Public Art Alliance, local artists and City Councillors
  • Five hour-long online engagement sessions (March-June 2020)
  • A month-long online survey (May-June 2020)

The information collected was used to build the procurement process and write the request for proposals (RFP) for interested organizations.

2018 - 2019 engagement

Approximately 9000 Calgarians, including the arts community, were engaged in 2018 and 2019 to help identify what makes a great public art program.

  • May 2018 - City-wide citizen survey about public art (7450 participants) Download the pdf report
  • May 2018 - 65 in-person surveys and an 44 electronic surveys by artists in Calgary (109 participants) Download the pdf report
  • May 2018 - external research group completed a public art process review survey with Calgarians (500 participants) Download the pdf report
  • May 2018 - external consultant completed a public art survey for Citizen’s View panelists (1009 participants) Download the pdf report
  • October 2018 - Internal stakeholder engagement session on public art project practices (20 participants)
  • October - December 2018 - Two Public Art Board engagement sessions focused on governance and terms of reference review
  • September 2018 - February 2019 - Four focus groups and multiple stakeholder meetings (over 50 participants)
  • May - August 2019 - Four working group sessions focused on procurement strategies and relationship building (on average 15 to 20 participants per session, some participants were reoccurring participants)
  • October 2019 - Four focus group sessions focused on developing a vision in October 2019 (30 participants)
  • October 2019 - Telephone interviews with members of the Public Art Executive Steering Committee (4 participants)

Stay informed

Stay informed about upcoming engagement opportunities, calls for artists and public art unveilings by signing up for our monthly public art newsletter.


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