Calgary Arts Development chosen to operate city’s public art program

Public art funding, suspended since the review began in 2017, will now be reinstated

Supper salad is one of dozens of pieces from Calgary artists used along the new Calgary Transit MAX BRT lines. DARREN KRAUSE / LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Calgary Arts Development will be the third-party operator of the city’s public art program after a decision from city council.

Work had been ongoing to remove the administration of public art from the City of Calgary and into an external organization. At an October update, city councillors heard work was supposed to be completed by June last year. COVID-19 delayed work on the project.

Along with the announcement of the transition to CAD, the city also said public art funding would continue. It had been suspended since 2017 while the program was under review.

Now, the city will move the oversight and implementation of public art projects over three years to CAD. They expect the full transition to be done by 2024.

“Having a third-party operator for Calgary’s public art program will reduce barriers for Calgary’s local artist community to participate in the program, increase transparency for citizens, and increase investment in the local creative economy,” said Jennifer Thompson, manager of Arts and Culture with the City of Calgary, in a prepared release.

The city received several letters of support in favour of CAD as the operator of the public art program.

“Calgary Arts Development has been in existence since 2005 with a mandate to support and strengthen the arts to benefit all Calgarians, said Patti Pon, CEO of Calgary Arts Development.

“The public art program aligns perfectly with what we stand for; our commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility; our direct relationship with Calgary’s arts sector; and our vision for a creative, connected Calgary through the arts.”

How it will be different

The push behind a third-party operator was to streamline the process and to ensure that Calgary’s arts community was engaged in city projects.

The city said this new system will reduce red tape by directly connecting it with the arts community rather than through the city. They also said that right now the city’s procurement process is set up for working with larger companies on larger projects.

“This creates barriers for both local and emerging artists,” they said in the release.

More than 3,000 people were consulted during the review of the public art program.

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