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Parks & Public Art Walk at Downtown Calgary | A Gay Couple Photo Tour

Parks & Public Art Walk at Downtown Calgary | A Gay Couple Photo Tour

A Gay Couple’s Photo Tour Parks Public Art Downtown Calgary Alberta Canada – Thinking about Calgary, a public art scene would not be necessarily the first thing that comes to your mind, especially not in Downtown Calgary with all its huge skyscrapers and financial offices. Luckily, we have been disabused. A variety of sculptures, gigantic graffiti, outdoor paintings, and sunny parks with public art are scattered all around the heart of the Canadian city in the province of Alberta. Additional to the outdoor art installations, a multiplicity of public art in most of the foyers and backyards of the modern buildings showcase art pieces from all over the world. During our stay in Calgary right before our road trip through the Canadian Rocky Mountains of Alberta, Canada we became gay city explorers doing the Public Art Walk in Downtown Calgary.

While wandering around the skyscraper heart, Calgary succeeded in surprising us in a completely unexpected way. Combined with coffee and cake breaks in one of the cafés all around Downtown Calgary, sitting in a park and doing art, sculpture, and people watching was one of our favorite things to do in Calgary. Therefore, you can do a walking tour, or rent a fat-tired bike and cruise through the city. And if it is a windy, snowy, or rainy day in Calgary, we recommend a visit to the Fort of Calgary, the Glenbow Museum, or Telus Spark Science Museum. Just one hour away from Calgary, dinosaur fans should pay a visit to the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, while Star Trek fans have to the Canadian town “Vulcan”. But now, join us on our walking photo tour around the heart of Calgary and see our favorite parks and public art scene Downtown through a couple of men’s eyes!

Walking Tour Parks & Public Art Calgary

The easiest way to come around in Downtown Calgary is per pedis. Since the main roads, mostly one-way streets, are organized by quarters changing direction by block, you just have to remember the order. Most of the streets have numbers, like 11th, 12th, or 13th Avenue or remarkable names like Stephen Ave. Traffic lights are regulating the main roads and so it is easy even for tourists to walk in Calgary. If you have less time in your travel itinerary for the Canadian city planned,  Calgary is a biking city, too with signed biking ways all over the city center district. We created a map with our highlights of parks and public art locations spread over entirely Downtown Calgary, although those are not all art pieces you can discover!

Photo Tour Parks Public Art Downtown Calgary Alberta ©

Photo Tour Parks Public Art Downtown Calgary Alberta ©

First Stops: Poetic Park Plaza & Century Gardens

Out Calgary Walking Tour started in Downtown West near the bridge of the 10th Street NW. Right in front of the Avatamsaka Monastery and the Calgary Catholic School District, we discovered spider-like insects. The sculptures “Ascension” by Incipio Modo marks the beginning of our one-day walking exploration.

After 5 minutes walk along 9th Street SW and 7th Avenue we reached our next stop, the sculptures at Century Gardens. Next to fountains and water, the sculptures of a couple of bears, a family, and a chess player, the central location of the park in Calgary should be on your public art to-do list. Century Gardens is conveniently located to catch the Calgary CTrain.

Chass mate at Century Gardens | Photo Tour Parks Public Art Downtown Calgary Alberta ©
Chass mate at Century Gardens ©
Bear couple sculptures at Century Gardens | Photo Tour Parks Public Art Downtown Calgary Alberta ©
Bear couple sculptures at Century Gardens ©
Family Century Gardens | Photo Tour Parks Public Art Downtown Calgary Alberta ©
Family Century Gardens in Downtown Calgary, Alberta ©

“Chief Sitting Eagle” & Harley Hotchkiss Gardens

Before we entered the Harley Hotchkiss Gardens, we passed by the statue of “Chief Sitting Eagle”, an 11-foot statue of the chief of the Stoney Nakoda (First Nation of Alberta) also known as John Hunter. Many citizens of Alberta and Calgary also know him as “the symbol” of the Calgary Stampede annual event. In his honor, Calgary unveiled a statue in 1988 in front of the Encor Tower at 7th Avenue SW corner 6th Street SW. He became involved

After a 5-minutes walk along the 7th Ave SW, we arrived at the Harley Hotchkiss Gardens. Artist Joe Fafard created in 2010 in this park the beautiful public art pieces known as “Do re mi fa sol la si do”. Celebrating the sister-city relationship between Calgary and Quebec City, the heart of steel-cut horses seems to run through Downtown Calgary in front of the magnificent backdrop of the Calgary Skyline. Definitively, one of our favorite places in Downtown Calgary, Alberta.

Chief Sitting Eagle | Photo Tour Parks Public Art Downtown Calgary Alberta ©
Chief Sitting Eagle Statue in Downtown Calgary ©
Harley Hotchkiss Gardens “Do re mi fa sol la si do” | Photo Tour Parks Public Art Downtown Calgary Alberta ©
Harley Hotchkiss Gardens “Do re mi fa sol la si do” ©

Turner Valley Mural & Sadko & Kabuki Sculptures

On our way from Harley Hotchkiss Gardens, we encountered the gigantic Turner Valley Mural on the 6th Avenue SW, south side of the Petroleum Club building. The huge painting (15 by 45 meters) was made in 1997 by Doug Driediger. For us, it looks like a summary of Alberta’s life including the role of oil and gas and agriculture, not to forget the Rocky Mountains as a spectacular backdrop of the painting.

While finding the right angle for a photo of the mural, we literally discovered the red (Sadko) and yellow (Kabuki) sculptures by Soel Etrog (Sculpture). Although those two sculptures have been created already in 1972, Sadko and Kabuki are giving the corner of the busy 6th Avenue SW and 2nd Street SW, the Bow Valley Square, a very lively and colorful touch.

Sadko & Kabuki Sculptures | Photo Tour Parks Public Art Downtown Calgary Alberta ©
Sadko & Kabuki Sculptures ©
Turner Valley Mural | Photo Tour Parks Public Art Downtown Calgary Alberta ©
Turner Valley Mural in Downtown Calgary ©

“Outlaw” Rodeo Sculpture & Financial Reflections

We know, architecture and skyscrapers are not everybody’s cup of tea, but especially in Downtown Calgary, there’s no getting around it. Some remarkable moments of light and city reflections in Calgary’s skyline are part of the walking tour. The same applies to the Rodeo and the annual Calgary Stampede, a gigantic rodeo festival taking place every July in Calgary, Alberta. But not only the rodeo riders are famous in Canada. Even the bulls are getting famous cross-border in the province of Alberta, for example, the bull “Outlaw”. His powerful moves and the circumstance, that he has been ridden only twice for the full eight seconds in 71 trips earned him the reputation of “rankest bulls in the world of rodeo”. In honor of his accomplishments, an 11-foot-tall bronze statue of Outlaw was installed in 2010 created by the artist Richard Loffler and Regina Saskatchewan.

“Weaving Fence & Horn” at TransCanada Tower

A lot of the public art pieces and sculptures in Calgary have a strong connection to the culture of Alberta, especially the natural heritage and wildlife of the Rocky Mountains and prairie country. So does the sculpture “Weaving Fence & Horn” by John McEwan. Revealed in 2002, the public art in front of the TransCanada Tower stands for an homage to the Rocky Mountain sheep, or at least for one of their horns. Working as a windbreak located in front of the TransCanada Tower is just an additional side effect of this interesting piece of art.

Ah, and don’t forget to look north towards the Bow River. If you have never gay traveled to Asia, more specifically China, before, you might want to catch a look at or pay a visit to the Chinese Cultural Center with its replica of the Temple of the Sun in Beijing, China.

Sculpture “Wonderland” – Urban Transformation?

Our Photo Walk around Downtown Calgary continued passing by James Short Park. After taking a left turn at 6th Avenue again, we faced the 12-meter sculpture entitled “Wonderland” created by Barcelona-based designer Jaume Plensa. Located in front of the new Bow Tower, the gigantic head-like sculpture was unveiled in 2013. Take a look around, walk inside the head and try to find the connection between Calgary’s skyscrapers, old factory buildings, and the restless traffic. Impressive.

Naked Family Sculptures – The Brotherhood of Mankind aka The Family of Man

Created for the British Pavilion at the Montreal Expo in 1967, the ten 6.5 meters tall aluminum figures by the Spanish artist Mario Armengol became a landmark in Downtown Calgary since they have been installed in 1968. The circle of naked humans with the name “The Family of Man”  is located near the old Calgary Board of Education building at the corner of 1st Street and 6th Avenue S.E. The sculptures have been a highlight on our tour standing in the middle of the Canadian city peacefully together and creating an intimate but trustworthy atmosphere.

Just around the corner and in strong contrast to the modern architecture of the past centuries, we discovered a small and flat building. Located directly at 6th Avenue, the St. Francis of Assisi Roman Catholic Church looks like a building, not from this century and cute at the same time.

“Giving Wings To The Dream” Mural

The artist Doug Driediger could paint the “Giving Wings To The Dream” mural in 1995 as “(…) a visual solution entirely based on [my] his ideas and not a supply of client images”. Canada tourists, gay travelers, and fans of public street art should include a visit to 1 Street SE and 7 Avenue SE. On the east wall of the building that was formerly the home of the Calgary Urban Project Society (also known as CUPS project) the impressive piece of art just invited us to stop and enjoy a special moment of peace on our photo tour around the city of Calgary.

TransitStory – Sculptures

“TransitStory” by Jill Anholt is an art piece of 30 sculptures of people engineered and fabricated from steel and artfully painted. To show the different moments of arriving and departing from the public train system in Downtown Calgary (the center line is free within Downtown), the sculptures have been strategically installed along the Centre Street LRT transit platform of the Calgary CTrain. Have a closer look and watch our video:

The Famous Five at Olympic Plaza

Also known as The Valiant Five, the sculptures “The Famous Five” at Downtown Calgary’s Olympic Plaza still seem to discuss a very important topic. And our Karl was a very interested audience. The five women, Emily Murphy, Irene Marryat Parlby, Nellie Mooney McClung, Louise Crummy McKinney, and Henrietta Muir Edwards, created a petition to ask this question to ask the delicate question: “Does the word ‘Persons’ in Section 24 of the British North America Act, 1867, include female persons?” First answered with no, the statement was overturned by the British Judicial Committee of the Privy Council on 18 October 1929. But it still seems relevant today when talking about equality, women, and LGBTQ+ rights worldwide. Doesn’t it?

Peace Bridge by Santiago Calatrava

As a red beauty crossing the Bow River in the North of Calgary, the Peace Bridge was one of our favorite architectonic sights and landmarks of the Canadian City. The remarkable bridge opened its way in 2012 for cyclists and pedestrians. And even during wintertime when we biked the city of Calgary, the bridge in front of the stunning backdrop of Calgary’s skyline is a perfect photo motive during a Photo Tour Parks Public Art Downtown Calgary Alberta.

Karl & Daan in front of the red Peace Bridge by Calatrava | Fat Tire Biking Calgary Nomadic Mobile Gear ©
Karl & Daan in front of the red Peace Bridge by Calatrava ©

Biking further along the Bow River, we found more to discover. For example, the public art with jungle animals beneath the Reconciliation Bridge. Or the “Bloom” sculpture by the Montreal artist Michel de Broin on St. Patrick’s Island Park. Keep your eyes open, and you will see the beauty of Calgary in between the gigantic skyscrapers, the oil cities, and first nations past, and the rising food and brewery culture of Alberta. Back in the city center of Downtown Calgary, walk Stephen Avenue (8th Ave) to see some historical buildings, shopping centers, and the bronze statue The Conversation” by William McElcheran from 1981. And keep your eyes open: there is even more throughout the whole Calgary.

"The Conversation Bronte Statue | Photo Tour Parks Public Art Downtown Calgary Alberta ©
“The Conversation” Bronte Statue | Photo Tour Parks Public Art Downtown Calgary Alberta ©

Photo Tour Parks Public Art Downtown Calgary Alberta:

Good to know about the photo route Calgary:

On our way around the skyscrapers of Downtown Calgary, we used the opportunities to sit down and let the busy city life pass by. Unexpected beautiful moments filled with a symbiotic connection between green flowering parks, the reflections of the buildings, cars, and people in the glass facades, and the art pieces made our walking tour a true adventurous activity. Although we found more places than we were expecting, there is even more to see, not to mention all the public art and parks around the city center of Calgary. The best thing for us was to take time and enjoy the beauty.