Exploring Edmonton’s public art, on two wheels

Edmonton is a city full of public art. Whether commuting by bus, train, car or on foot, chances are that you are exposed to art a few times each week.

This summer, why not take the opportunity to start engaging with the art that you pass by every day? Find out what the story is behind those chrome balls by the Whitemud, or study the vibrant and intriguing sculptures found in parks across the city. Maybe bring a picnic, take some photos and start to explore your own backyard.

Earlier this year, the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters Society organized a public art ride, a 30-kilometre adventure through Edmonton’s river valley exploring some of the city’s most fascinating art pieces.

Drawing inspiration from that ride, we’ve put together a number of shorter public art tours of our fine city, which will be published over the coming weeks. You can enjoy them by bicycle, on foot, or, if you’re pressed for time, by car.

Public Art Ride #1 (or walk, or drive…) 11.0 km (map).

For the first tour, begin at a popular destination for tourists and locals alike — Fort Edmonton Park and the John Janzen Nature Centre. The first stop is at the John Janzen Nature Centre itself, where local artist Genevieve Simms created a three-piece mural depiction of the centre’s namesake. For this piece, Simms drew her inspiration in Janzen’s role as city parks superintendent, finding parallels between her mapping of the piece, and his role in mapping the city.

Past and Present

Past and Present – Krzysztof Zukowski. Photo: Lisa Caterall

The next stop is not far — just outside the gates of Fort Edmonton Park, next to the administration building, you’ll find Krzysztof Zukowski’s Past and Present. The interpretation of this sculptural installation will have to be quite personal, as the Edmonton Arts Council offers little information on their website. (Personally, it brings me back to a simpler time, when I would spend hours on the living room floor playing with Tinkertoys.)

Talus Dome

Talus Dome – Ball Nogues Studio. Photo: Lisa Caterall

Once you’ve taken some time to ponder and enjoy Past and Present, continue along the river to just next to the Quesnell bridge. It’s time to investigate the mountain of chrome spheres that have garnered so much attention over the last few years. The Talus Dome, by Ball Nogues Studio, has become a landmark in Edmonton. The sculpture, named after the sloping forms of earth that were once found in these areas prior to modern developments, is constructed of nearly 1,000 stainless steel balls. It was designed to reflect on the surroundings and take on different colours throughout each day, season and year. Look in to each sphere to find a varied reflection of the landscape based on its position and surroundings. The changing nature of the piece illustrates the balance between its permanence and the ever-evolving landscape.

The next leg of the journey is a bit long, but scenic. Continue along the river valley trails in to the lovely area of Belgravia, where a treasure trove of public art exists. In Belgravia Park, located at 115 Street and 83 Avenue, visitors can take in a number of different installations, including sculptures like Ken Macklin’s Pumpkins and Moons. The Edmonton-born artist, now living in northern Alberta, draws his inspiration from nature. The colourful mixed-media sculpture is whimsical piece. To some, it may look like a face; to others, the sink after preparing for a dinner party. The path of art interpretation is wide and open, take it wherever it leads you.

As mentioned, this park is full of interesting sculptures, and shouldn’t be missed. The collection here is a relatively well-kept secret, and would provide a great background to enjoy a picnic.

Continuing on, head back towards the beautiful river valley for an easy downhill ride into Hawrelak Park. Richard Tosczak’s New Life … New Beginnings is perhaps one of the most frequently viewed sculptures during Edmonton’s balmy summer months. The statue draws its inspiration from the role of the family in life, and particularly in the modern-day use of Hawrelak Park. On any given day, families can be seen in similar poses all around the park, playing games, climbing trees and watching the geese. New Life … New Beginnings evokes a sense of strength from the past and hope for the future.

One more stop on today’s route. Once again, pedal along the lovely river valley trails, continuing through Emily Murphy Park, and on to the Kinsmen.

Next to the entrance of the Queen Elizabeth Pool are four coloured circles on the ground.

Sound Columns

Sound Columns – Darren Copeland and Andreas Kahre. Photo: Lisa Caterall

While this may not seem like much of an art exhibit, it is the most interactive piece on this trail.

Stand on one of the circles, and listen. The Sound Columns, by Darren Copeland and Andreas Kahre, uses audio recordings from various water-related areas in Edmonton — the river valley, pools and water parks — and focused speakers to create pockets of sound. Take this time to stop, and experience the tranquil sounds of water in our city.

And so concludes the first leg of our public art tour — hopefully you’ve enjoyed the pieces you’ve decided to see, and have discovered a few more reasons to love exploring Edmonton. Stay tuned for the next public art ride to be published in the next few weeks!

For more information on Edmonton’s collection of public art, visit the Edmonton Arts Council’s Public Art website, where you’ll find information on hidden gems all around the city.

About Lisa Catterall

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  1. […] Chris Gusen tours #DIYCity by bike, while Lisa Catterall uses the same form of transportation to visit various pieces of public art. […]