Calgary public art piece that scorched spectator reinstalled in new location

A piece of public art that was removed and put into storage after burning a hole through a spectator’s jacket has been reinstalled in a new location.

The Wishing Well made a splashy return Thursday morning in the Bridgeland neighbourhood.

“Great cities have great public art and Calgary is a great city,” said Alex MacWilliam, president of the Bridgeland-Riverside Community Association.

“This is just one more reason for people to be proud that (they) live here and we’re excited for people to come and visit us.”

The piece was initially installed outside the Genesis Centre in the city’s northeast in 2012.

A year later, someone admiring the stainless steel statue complained her coat had been scorched by the refraction of the sun’s rays.

It was removed in 2014 but the City of Calgary has been working with the San Francisco-based artists, Living Lenses, to fix the safety issues, including putting non-reflective coating inside the sculpture and moving it to a 20 degree angle.

“We’ve done a lot of study around this, how the sun moves in this space and the 20 degree angle really mitigates the remaining safety concerns,” said Julie Yepishina-Geller, the public art liaison for the City of Calgary.

Geller said the piece’s new home at the Bridge, a multi-family rental living space and retail plaza by JEMM Properties located in the 900 block of McPherson Square N.E., will also help as it provides more shade.

“It’s really a combination of factors that we had to consider so we started the process three years ago and have been sort of chipping away at it ever since,” she said.

Edan Lindenbach, principal of land planning and development with JEMM Properties, said it’s been a dream of the company’s to “activate" Bridgeland.

“We really wanted to give back more than just by providing more density and creating more residences for Bridgeland,” he said.

“We’re just so excited to have achieved that. I think this sculpture is going to be enjoyed by so many people. I think it’s going to be great for kids. It’s going to be an awesome corner for Bridgeland now.”

MULTI-MEDIA SCULPTURE

The art piece isn’t just a visual experience. People can also send a text with a message or greeting that will be played inside through light and sound.

“The sounds are made from voice recordings of people across Calgary, so essentially the melodies created are your fellow Calgarians singing messages back to you,” Geller said.

Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra said as more people in Calgary choose to live in higher density areas, there needs to be access to all types of amenities.

“Amenity is access to beautiful parks, it’s access to amazing shops and services, and then it’s also access to amazing culture and having a stunning piece of public art on this corner really plants that flag,” he said.

Many people in the area also agree that having more public art around the city adds value.

“I think it’s nice to have something here instead of just having nothing there around this community, it’s growing,” Ethan Do said.

Willow Walker, another resident, took a break from her bike ride to admire The Wishing Well.

She said she appreciates works of art like it and would like to see more.

“It makes people pause and talk and share their ideas and it’s a happy thing,” Walker said.

Carlos Valdez agreed, and said, “It’s pretty nice just to walk around downtown and see art the people have made and it makes the city come more alive.”

SMALL SCALE PROJECTS COMING SOON

The city’s public art liaison said there are going to be several small scale projects in the northeast, including at the Genesis Centre, that will be installed over the next two years.

“This is going to enable art by local artists to be enjoyed throughout the quadrant, including a new future sculpture at the Genesis site,” Geller said.

She said the city has learned lessons from this experience but said each piece of public art is different and there isn’t a “cookie cutter approach.”

“Now we are really focused on looking at all aspects of a piece, looking at the site in combination with the material that’s used and that certainly always has been and will continue to be a focus of the program,” Geller said.

The relocation of The Wishing Well comes at no additional cost to Calgary taxpayers, according to Geller.

The sculpture is 3.88 metres tall, 5.36 metres wide and four metres deep. It weighs 2,200 kilograms.