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The Nest: Public Art at the Seton Recreation Facility

The Nest: Public Art at the Seton Recreation Facility

The Artist, Donald Lipski, was inspired by the site as a place of nurture, growth, meeting and discovery. The artist chose a bird’s nest, with different flocks of birds flying toward it carrying branches for the nest as a symbol of community.

I believe this artwork reflects your vision of connectivity for the regional facilities for all ages and abilities. The Nest, in a beautiful and poetic way, will reflect The City’s values of inclusion, equitability and accessibility, diversity, adaptability and responsiveness, innovation, community vitality and stewardship. It celebrates who you are and your role in the community. - Donald Lipski​​

The Artwork

The public art entitled The Nest, by artist Donald Lipski, is a site-specific work designed for the Seton Recreation Facility.

The design of the building has three main hallways joining together in a central hub, similar to the spokes of a wheel. The artwork has a sculpture of a bird’s nest in the central hub, with a different flock of birds located along each hallway, flying towards the nest. Together, these features are entitled The Nest.

The nest at the centre of the artwork is a large sculpture, about 3.5 metres (8 feet) in diameter and 1 metre (3.5 feet) tall, made of interlaced acrylic "twigs" over a stainless steel structural frame.

There are thirty birds in total. There are three flocks of birds, each a different species of bird, familiar to and loved by the Seton community. They are:

  • Swainson’s Hawk
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Great Horned Owl

The birds are life-sized. The hawk’s wingspan is about 1.4 metres (4.5 feet); the heron’s is about 2 metres (6 feet); and the owl is about 1.5 metres (5 feet).​

The Artist

Artist Donald Lipski

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.


The birds are cast from ultra-violet resistant polyester resin (fiberglass), and hand painted to realistically match the actual colours of the species. The hand painting also accents the individuality of each bird. The installation of each individual bird will be customized to enhance the appearance of the flock of birds in flight.

No two birds are identical, as they are sculpted in modular parts. The artist created separate molds for the bodies, wings, neck and head, and legs and feet of each bird. The modular design allows the artist to assemble each bird in different postures and aspects of flight. Each bird carries a “twig” to add to the nest, some in their beaks, some in their talons.

Community Engagement

One of Donald’s aspirations for the Seton recreation facility was 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 and how the birds in our communities inspire and touch the lives of Calgarians.

To ensure the final piece is meaningful and resonates with Calgarians, Donald gathered information from the community 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.​

The Project

The project was expected to be completed in December 2018 and the public art budget was $750,000. The public art budget covers all aspects to conceive, design, produce, and install the artwork.

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. 

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.