Exploring Calgary’s Street Art Scene: Vibrant Murals, Installations, and Festivals (2023)
Street art has gained immense popularity in Calgary in the last few years. Today it has become an integral part of Calgary’s cultural landscape with so many options to explore. Street Art in Calgary isn’t as well known as in Montreal or Vancouver, but the growing art community is continuing to gain recognition and appreciation. Street Art in Calgary can be found in its neighborhoods, including downtown Calgary, the Beltline, Inglewood, and Kensington areas. These landmarks display colorful murals, graffiti, and other artistic expression-enhancing alleyways, building walls, and other public spaces.
With the increasing popularity of Street Art in the city, Calgary also hosts an annual event, the BUMP Festival (Beltline Urban Mural Project). The event gathers local and international artists with the aim of creating large-scale murals in the Beltline neighborhood.
Exploring Calgary’s Street art scene can be a worthwhile experience, and that’s what this article is all about. Join us if you enjoy discovering urban creativity or have any interest in art. It is an opportunity to discover unique artworks and creativity while engaging with the local culture of Calgary.
Exploring Calgary’s Street Art Scene: Vibrant Murals, Installations, and Festivals
Exploring the street art scene in Calgary is undoubtedly a rewarding and visually captivating experience.
1. Attend the BUMP Festival (Beltline Urban Mural Project)
The BUMP Festival, also known as the Beltline Urban Mural Project, is an annual celebration of Art and Artists. BUMP displays street art and large-scale murals and invites artists from different parts of the world. While the festivities are on, the entire streets of the Beltline neighborhood are adorned with vibrant and captivating street artwork. Art lovers can expect to observe different street art styles, techniques, and themes all in one place. As the artists transform blank walls into colorful and visually striking pieces, it simply changes the overall aesthetics of the area. The event basically turns the Beltline neighborhood into an open-air gallery. The street art here features everything from thought-provoking social commentaries, murals, colorful abstract designs, and work that speaks about cultural influences.
While attending the BUMP festival in Calgary, visitors can even observe artists at work and engage in conversations about their work. The event often includes artist talks, interactive workshops, and guided tours.
2. Galleria Trees at Stephen Avenue
The Trees Sculpture, also known as Ten Trees, or the popular identification, Galleria Trees, is an interesting art installation on Stephen Avenue. This street art is right between Bankers Hall and the Core Shopping Centre in Calgary, Alberta.
Galleria trees are a work of ‘The Cohos Evamy Partners,’ who are also behind the Bankers Hall building. Not particularly trees, but art structures are a representation of trees in Calgary, where growing them once was very challenging. This street art is so well designed and installed that it provides a windbreak in the bustling pedestrian area. It is also enhanced with vibrant, seasonally-themed LED lights that make it an attraction for both day and night. The Trees Sculpture has been in Calgary since 2000, and this fusion of architectural practicality and artistic beauty adds a unique charm to the city.
3. Wonderland near Calgary International Airport
Wonderland is a must-see public art installation in Calgary. Also known as the Big Blue Ring, this art installation is basically a prominent and eye-catching sculpture close to the Calgary International Airport. This giant artwork stands approximately 12 meters tall and is a creation by artist Christian Moeller. It was commissioned as part of the Percent for Art program in Calgary. It serves as a symbol of the city’s commitment to artistic expression. Not only that, but Wonderland also includes a unique visual element to the surrounding landscape.
In these years, the Big Blue Ring or Wonderland has become Calgary’s dedication to fostering a vibrant and engaging urban environment. This iconic landmark attracts both locals and visitors alike. The vibrant color and distinctive shape attract photographs of anyone passing through the area.
4. The Conversation in East Village District
The Conversation is a prominent public art installation in the East Village District of Calgary. Art lovers can find it right along the RiverWalk near the Simmons Building. This public installation basically including of several large, red, stainless steel chairs. These chairs are kept together in a circular formation, inviting art lovers to sit and engage with the artwork. The Conversation is a masterpiece by artist Joe O’Connell and his team at Creative Machines. Every single chair included in this magnificent artwork is uniquely shaped and represents different styles and forms of seating. The idea behind this art installation is to exhibit the importance of communication, dialogue, and community engagement.
The Conversation isn’t just another Street art in Calgary but also a gathering place where people relax and interact. In addition, its setting by the river opens up scenic views of the surrounding area and adds to its ambiance. The vibrant red chairs contrast with the natural surroundings. Anyone passing by, pause, reflect, and connect with others. Whether you are a local taking a break or a tourist exploring the area, do check out the Conversation in Calgary.
5. Chinnok Arc in Barb Scott Park
Another popular place to see vibrant street art in Calgary is the edge of Barb Scott Park. This area is home to Chinook Arc, an impressive interactive, illuminated sculpture. This street art is a work by artists Joe O’Connell and Blessing Hancock and has been standing since 2014. It basically represents the vibrant and confident nature of the Beltline community. Chinnok Arc is an inspiration from the historic Beltline Streetcar loop along with the Chinook arch clouds phenomena that sometimes cover the Calgary sky.
Chinook art stands 15 feet tall and has a diameter of 28 feet. Its attractive acrylic skin appears semi-translucent during light hours as they subtly illuminated by the sun. Whereas during dark hours, the structure emits a soft, internal glow that adds to its beauty. Its interactive lighting system makes this art installation in Calgary a must-see. The custom-designed sensor inside the art installation allows the public to control its light sequences in real-time, which is truly a magnificent feature. One can simply wave their hand or play a video on a smartphone, and the artwork will actively engage and change the patterns and colors of the lights.
6. Wolfe and the Sparrows in Inglewood Neighborhood
Wolfe and the Sparrows is a cast bronze sculpture created by Branden Vickers in Calgary. It was created in 2019, inspired by the statue of General James Wolfe of 1898. At first glance, with a bronze figure raised on a pedestal, Wolfe and the Sparrows appears to be a traditional monument. Although as you will move closer, the art installation takes a totally different form. From close, one can observe multiple sparrows bursting from the sculpture’s head and shoulders, giving the figure a strange look.
Wolfe and the Sparrows isn’t just a mere celebration of a historical figure, but it also aims to transform and challenge Western thinking. The sculpture explores the relationship between indigenous people and settlers, combining history with critical thinking. It sits ideally at the southwest corner of the new 12 Street Bridge in Inglewood. If you are an aesthete, do check out this thought-provoking and visually intriguing element in Calgary.
7. Confluence Martindale Public Art in Northeast Calgary
If you are curious to see a mixed-media mural, check out the Confluence Martindale Public Art in Northwest Calgary. It can be found at the screening walls right opposite the Martindale LRT platforms. The art installation stretches over 162 meters. It is a work by the Blue Line LRT Extension project via the Public Art Policy. The idea behind creating this mural is to highlight the physical and symbolic connections between Calgary and the river that flows through. The artwork explores the cross-cultural significance of rivers. It incorporates metaphors like flow, nature, and time, along with past, present, and future. It significantly focuses on the Bow and Elbow rivers. Confluence represents the history and life of Calgary, ideally its original First Nations inhabitants.
The installation is a compilation of glazed terra cotta, pattern-cut metal, and LED lighting. It creates a unique and symbolic river that reflects multiple thought-provoking ideas. The mural also features visual symbols, cultural artifacts, patterns, and motifs. It was completed in October 2012 using a budget of $474,000. David Dahlquist, a nationally-recognized public artist who is behind Confluence, is known for his storytelling approach and for creating meaningful experiences.
8. Ram’s Horn on West of Trans Canada Centre
Also popularly known as Weaving Fence and Horn, the Ram’s Horn exhibit Calgary’s Street Art Scenes in the best possible manner. It is an iconic sculpture by artist John McEwen nestled along the west side of the TransCanada Centre. The sculpture stands 8 feet tall and extends 12 feet long. It isn’t just a piece of public art but is also meant to mitigate wind vortexes across downtown Calgary’s tall buildings. Ram’s Horn is a work of recycled steel that was donated by IPSCO and transported for fabrication. While the public installation was in construction, it was the largest recycled art installation in the country.
The weaving Fence and Horn resemble the curve of a natural ram’s Horn. It symbolically evokes the bighorn sheep that is known to be found in the nearby Rocky Mountains. It is a significant and visually striking addition to the public art scene in Calgary. Visitors can drive past the sculpture and admire its unique design and appreciation.
9. The East Village Murals in the East Village Neighborhood
Last but not least on our list is the East Village Murals, also known as the Bridge. This public art installation sits in Calgary’s East Village neighborhood, ideally on the side of the George C. King Bridge. The installation features a series of colorful and vibrant murals by local and visiting artists. The project was initiated by the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) basically for revitalization efforts in the area. The aim is to bring art to public spaces and add visual interest to the Bridge. These murals create a unique and engaging experience for both locals and tourists.
Each mural at the East Village Murals is known for its own distinct style and theme. It features everything from abstract designs to representational artwork. After the installation of murals, the Bridge has become a popular spot for walkers and photographers alike. In fact, social media enthusiasts enjoy the picturesque backdrop and lively atmosphere of the place.
The murals not only contribute to the aesthetics of the area but also allow artists to showcase their talent and some other popular street art installations in Calgary include Corridor of Connection Mural, Northern Hills Mural, Fluke Art, Migrations or Fats Patrol by Indian/Canadian artist Fathima Mohiuddin and Silence(d) at 11th Avenue.