City of Calgary cancels second part of Bowfort Road interchange art project

Click to play video: 'City of Calgary cancels second part of Bowfort Road interchange art project' City of Calgary cancels second part of Bowfort Road interchange art project
WATCH: Part 2 of a controversial art project along the TransCanada Highway in Calgary has been scrapped. As Joel Senick reports, the decision comes down to money, according to officials – Oct 19, 2018

The City of Calgary will not pursue the second part of a public art project near the Trans-Canada Highway and Bowfort Road N.W. due to “budget restraints,” according to a city official.

The project, known as “the drumlins,” was planned to accompany the Bowfort Towers, which was unveiled in August 2017. The landscape art would have included hills on the north side of the highway that were meant to resemble glaciers.

“When we started to review where we were at with Bowfort Towers, the decision was made to cancel the project,” said Jennifer Thompson, the city’s public art lead, in an interview Friday.

“The drumlins would cost over what was the remainder of the budget.”

READ MORE: City of Calgary unveils Blackfoot-inspired art at major northwest interchange

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The budget for the entire art project was $500,000, however only $411,000 has been used so far. Thompson indicated that the balance of the funds will be sent back to the city’s public art program.

Patricia Leighton, the artist commissioned to complete the drumlins, said the news came as a “huge surprise.”

“I would have liked them to have contacted me to discuss this and to look at the amount of money we had left and how best to address this,” Leighton said.

“I think, from the artist point of view, it’s very important when you’ve been working three-and-a-half years on a project to be part of the decision making.”

The project could have been condensed in order for it to stay within budget, according to Leighton. The drumlins was designed to be 2,000 feet long, but she said it could have been shortened to 1,000 feet.

“I really believe it [would] become a symbolic marker for Calgary… and also it works very well with regard to tying into the [Bowfort Towers],” Leighton said.
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“In my opinion, it would be a strong visual marker and I think we should revisit.”

The artists commissioned to do the work have been notified of the city’s decision, according to Thompson.

READ MORE: Trans-Canada Highway/Bowfort Road interchange officially opens

The project’s budget situation was noticed during the city’s ongoing review into the processes behind its public art program, according to Thompson. Thompson stressed that the decision to halt the second phase was not taken lightly.

“This has a big impact on the artist community, this certainly has a big impact on how we manage our projects moving forward,” she said.

“We really want to make sure everyone understands this was a pretty serious decision that we’re undertaking.”

The process review of the city’s public art program will eventually determine how best re-allocate the money not spent on the drumlins.

The public art was part of a $71.1 million interchange project at the Trans-Canada Highway and Bowfort Road N.W.


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