Mount Pleasant Fire Station 7 Public Art Project
The Mount Pleasant Fire Station was rebuilt at 2708 Fourth St. N.W. to provide better emergency services to several communities. The artist created site-specific artwork for the new Mount Pleasant Fire Station #7, providing a connection between the Calgary Fire Department and the citizens they serve.
The artwork for the Mount Pleasant Fire Station #7 is located in the feature stairwell in the southwest corner of the building. All the panels are clearly visible from 4th street through the curtain wall windows on the west side of the building.
The artwork is comprised of four pieces of painted aluminium over two floors (see Panels 1-4).
The largest section (panel #1) hangs at the top of the central wall and the bottom edge follows the lines of the handrail. It measures about four metres wide and three metres tall at its longest point.The left side of the artwork shows a motif of water gushing forcefully from a fire hose and through a night sky. The pattern of the water appears to flip up in an imagined response to the handrail. In the upper right area of the design, two hands drop stars into the sky above the Mount Pleasant Art Centre as it looked when it was first built as the local school, sitting isolated in fields. The image of the school was inspired by an old photograph of the building provided by a community member. In addition to the literal meaning, the stars also represent those people who come into a community and make it a brighter, better place. The nine larger stars also memorialize the firefighters in Calgary who have given their lives while on duty in service to the community.
On the lower stairwell, a diagonal freeze (panel #2) will be mounted on the central wall above the handrail. Edge-to-edge it measures about three-and-a-half metres by one metre. It is a design of hands with the water patterns flowing down and around them – visually linked from the hose imagery on the floor above. Each hand gesture communicates a value, activity or connection within the community.
Panel #3 is mounted on the wall of the landing between the 2nd and 3rd floors, facing out to 4th street. The panel is a vertically-oriented cityscape of Mount Pleasant, including tree-lined streets, historical buildings, landmarks and distinctive characteristics of the area. The panel is approximately three metres tall by one metre wide and has a representation of the historic Balmoral Circus placed at eye level for people using the stairwell.
Panels #4 will be mounted on the landing between the first and second floors. The panel is round, a little over one metre in diameter, and depicts welcoming hands. It will be eye-level for the people using the stairwell.
Jennifer was inspired by the stories of people who live and work in the area as well as walking around the streets of North Mount Pleasant and researching the architecture and landmarks of the area. At a community event in late September 2016, Jennifer talked with firefighters, artists at the North Mount Pleasant Arts Centre (across the street from the new fire station), and community members who participated. Participants shared their personal stories of the area as well as heritage information. What Jennifer heard emphasized the deep attachment everyone felt to Mount Pleasant. She met some of the firefighters who will work in Fire Station #7. It was an opportunity to talk about their jobs, responsibilities, and to build a picture of how they will function in the new building.
The hands motif in the artwork resulted from these meetings with firefighters. Jennifer observed their role in the community, their love of the volunteer work they do, and the opportunities they find or create to engage with the community, such as when the firefighters are with the children on the soccer field or participating so generously in the development projects like this one. The hands communicate those values in the gestures of giving, holding, protecting, respecting and inviting.
At the Mount Pleasant Art Centre Jennifer also met a local resident in his 90s who has lived his entire life in Mount Pleasant. He brought boxes of historical photographs along with personal anecdotes, memories and a history of the initial development of the area after the Second World War. His contribution to the development of this project can't be underestimated. Along with the archive from the Calgary Fire Department, the artist has had access to a wealth of visual material.
Jennifer Stead is an artist from Ottawa, Ontario.
Her work is represented in various private, public, and corporate collections nationally and she has been the recipient of many provincial and federal arts grants. Her practice, while based in drawing and painting, includes large public art pieces that engage with her love of the landscape and connection to the specifics of place.