Derek’s 2018 Favourite Wall Art and Graffiti in Downtown Calgary
During a return visit to South Africa in 2016 we were treated to a graffiti tour in the Braamfontein area near Downtown Johannesburg by a dear friend. This 90-minute walking tour, conducted by a recognized expert and student of graffiti, was a unique and memorable experience. She pointed out the nuances and distinctive elements of the different Artists’ works in various locations as we traversed the streets and alleyways of this rejuvenated, once-bustling Downtown node.
Ever since being introduced to that tour and the culture behind urban graffiti we have paid more attention to this artform in our own city. While I’m not aware of similar graffiti expertise and studies here in Calgary we do still appreciate what is being promoted in various of our Downtown neighbourhoods to give expression to local Artist’s creativity and gifting in an attempt to brighten up some of our city’s public blank wall spaces.
What I appreciate about outdoor art like this is it provides public expression to the Artist with no promise of any financial returns, recognition or accolades. It also enables the public to be outdoors, regardless of the weather, and enjoy the art in a variety of natural lighting throughout the diverse seasons, year-round. As I share some of my favourite Calgary locations with you I am acutely aware that there are many I won’t get to share, many I’ve overlooked, and even more that I am not even aware of. I would love for you to share some of your favourite spots with us so we, too, can discover and enjoy them ourselves.
Arguably my favourite piece of art is the lamp-lit street scene on the red brick wall in Kensington. You can navigate to this location here. I love the perspective, simplicity and colours in this work that my camera skills could never do justice to. Walking westwards down Kensington Road will reward you with several other murals and wall art treasures that you might wish to explore.
In the heart of Downtown, the iconic 48’ x 150’ mural in the parking lot on the south exterior wall of the Petroleum Club titled “Legacy” has been around since 1997. Designed by Artist Doug Driediger it depicts the interconnectivity between the oil industry and the land it shares with farming and ranching. Navigate to this location here.
As you saunter through the Downtown Core and nearby areas you may have noticed some unique winter scenes painted on street-front windows of several participating corporate buildings. This has been the initiative of Buds Collective and their winter “Northern Reflections Window Exhibition” that ran for its second year from November through December 2018.
This extremely unique and interactive form of art uses augmented reality (AR) to overlay graphics, sound, touch and feedback to a 2-dimensional artwork. Created by Calgarian artists and highlighting Canadian winter themes this was a unique and fun way to explore the Downtown core while appreciating this inner-city urban gallery. Background to the art and links to the map of the painting locations can be found here. An animation of one of the East Village Exhibits is available on our YouTube Channel here.
Heading east towards 1st Street SE you will want to look out for this next mural. Who knows how much longer the iconic “Giving Wings to the Dream” on the old CUPS Building at 7th Ave SE and 1st St SE will still be available for Calgarians and visitors to enjoy. This 250’ by 120’ mural is another beautiful creation by artist Doug Driediger and has never been touched up since it was painted in 1995. This artwork offers a breath of refreshing hope amidst the busyness of the Downtown Core. You can navigate to this mural here.
Walking along Riverfront Avenue SE, along the southern bank of the Bow River, you will encounter a diverse offering of public art. There is possibly none so unique and diverse as what confronts you as you enter the up-and-coming vibey East Village.
The quirky murals of Alberta wildlife by Curtis van Charles Sorensen, titled “Window to the Wild”, adorn the pedestrian underpass pillars of the 4th Street SE and 5th Avenue SE flyover pillars where you will find jumping foxes, beavers, herons and geese. Find this artwork here.
A selection of delightfully coloured mosaics by Ron Moppet near the intersection of Riverfront Lane and Riverfront Avenue SE have the elevated C-Train lines and City skyline as a backdrop to this outdoor gallery of colour.
As you head southwards from the East Village along 4th Street SE, beneath Studio Bell and south of 9th Avenue you will discover the eclectic art of Michelle Hoogveld. Titled “Corridor of Connection” on the 4th Street SE underpass, these murals provide a pop of colour as you migrate towards the Stampede Grounds. You can navigate to the underpass murals here.
A formal art walk exists around the Stampede Grounds where one can enjoy a selection of murals and sculptures. Step back in time and experience some of Stampede City’s history as you appreciate some of North America’s most significant artworks. Find out more about these here.
A rejuvenation of murals in Calgary’s Beltline has gained traction and is providing some fantastic diversity and discussion. You can read up and follow the work being done by BUMP (Beltline Urban Murals Project) here.
Probably our most conspicuous and diverse access to cross-pollinated graffiti from Western Canada – and perhaps even further afield – can be seen on the hundreds of CP Rail cars that snake through the Downtown / Beltline area as they are dispatched to destinations beyond the City limits. Although seen by some as damage to property, this art is synonymous with railroad cars and offer us insight into unique mobile art done by who-knows-who and who-knows-where. Wouldn’t this make an interesting study in itself?
We salute those who engage in outdoor art for the public to appreciate year-round. Look out for future articles as we share more perspectives on some of our favourite diverse public art in and beyond Calgary’s Downtown.
More in Downtown and beyond
Do you want to explore more?
Take a detour through downtown and explore some of our favourite public sculptures here.
Do you only have limited time to explore Calgary? Get a sneak peek into some of our favourite attractions that downtown Calgary has to offer. Read more in our two-hour or half-day exploring recommendations.
Have you seen Canada’s longest mural? Did you know it’s located in Calgary’s northeast? View our YouTube video clip of the fantastic Northern Hills Community Association’s ambitious 850m (3 neighbourhood blocks) project in Coventry along Coventry Hills Boulevard NE.