I came! I saw! It sucked!

While outrage over one horrific public art project or another has become something of an annual tradition in Calgary, Mayor Nenshi still doggedly denies that anything is wrong with the public art policy in the city. What would all those filthy taxpayers know about art anyway? How dare they question how city hall spends their money!

Nenshi likened critics of the latest arts abomination to a “lynch mob”.

Acclaimed Blackfoot artist Adrian Stimson took issue to this but then again, what would he know about Blackfoot inspired art? Can’t he just bow down to the wisdom of the handpicked city committees who choose these fine “arts” projects? No wonder he earned Nenshi’s insults.


Nenshi expanded to point out how it is “dangerous” to make judgements on something that hasn’t been “seen” or experienced.

OK. I went and saw and experienced the $500,000 “Bowfort Towers” for myself this evening.

The only thing that was dangerous was getting even close to the ridiculously placed display. It is set between two busy roads where vehicles are whizzing by at upwards of 100 kph as they approach an underpass. Hardly a nice spot for a person to pause and reflect on the piece of “art” that costed as much as an average city house does.

As can be seen below, I paused and reflected on the piece.

I gazed. I contemplated. I meditated. I came to a conclusion.

This piece of very expensive “art” is a turd that can’t be polished. Its is simplistic. It is terribly placed. It is aesthetically unappealing and it is apparently rather insulting to local First Nations. This was an utter waste of half a million dollars while most Calgarians are trying to recover from a recession.

Video of my visit can be found below.

Look, most people are not opposed to all public art. We are tired of “art” that is expensive, poorly placed and to be frank, damned ugly.

We have multiple pieces of art that we paid for that we cant even access as they were built in city industrial sites. We have a blue ring that is a national embarrassment. We have a silver ball that nearly lit a person on fire. The list goes on and on and on.

The policy is broken and Nenshi and his little “arts” crowd had better come to grips with this. Taxpayers are tired of being insulted and talked down to when they question the merit of their precious dollars being spent on art where the word “shit” is a generous description.

The backlash will grow if we don’t change this ridiculous policy soon. Fear city councilors who want to dramatically cut all forms of public art? Well I assure you, you will only empower those councilors when you deny that there is a problem and continue to defend this abhorrent waste of tax dollars.

There are many models in countless cities around the world that produce far better public art than what Calgary is generating. It is time that we emulated them rather than cling to this broken model that only produces crap.

Otherwise, get used to “lynch mobs”.

8 thoughts on “I came! I saw! It sucked!

  1. There are a lot of things, Including public art, we’re Calgary should emulate real cities in other parts of the world. Part of the problem is that City Hall is run by a bunch of unelected back room people who are not at all accountable to the public, and then the elected officials try to hide behind them claiming no responsibility for the actions of those people. We should be able to rely on our elected officials to manage and deal with those people and bad decisions are made. In this case firings or releases from contracts should occur

  2. The Public Art Board is responsible for these decisions If you go to their website there is no contact information such as a phone number or email address–just some little comment app. Clearly the website was set up to avoid public input.

  3. Would Mr. Nenshi be so quick with his name-calling if the artist had chosen to appropriate *insert another culture here* burial practices instead of Blackfoot ones? Would he be okay with it if such a thing were erected at a sacred *insert a religion here* site?

    We may not all have attended expensive American universities, but some of us studied First Nations in junior high school right here in Calgary, back in the days when they were called “North American Indians”. We learned about the cultural practices of the Blackfoot. After seeing the “art” on television, some of us recognized it as Blackfoot tree/platform burial structures. It was so obvious that it took mere seconds to make the connection. We may not have seen the actual tree/burial platforms due to our tender age (less than 100 years old), but then again, we have seen photos of a lot of things from history, and do not doubt their authenticity. Just because we weren’t around when the tree burials took place does not mean that they didn’t happen. What’s really sad is that Mr. N. et al could look at a report on the Paskapoo Slopes, including tree burials, but they choose to stick their heads in the sand instead. Gerald A. Oetelaar of the University of Calgary prepared this excellent report. I believe this was presented at a city-sponsored conference a few years ago. It also deals with cultural points of view, which might help the mayor to understand why this particular piece of “art”, and it’s location is seen as offensive to the very culture it is supposed to represent. This does not make the other culture “wrong”. Tolerance and open-mindedness to the views of that culture would be rthe way to underdtandimg.

    So instead of calling others names, perhaps the mayor should take the time to educate himself on the matter. Remember,, just because we weren’t around to witness a tree/platform burial in person does not mean it didn’t happen. And even if we have not run across a highway to see the “art”, we know it exists from multiple TV and newspaper images. Many of us have not seen the mayor in person, either, but we know he exists and what he looks like from the same media. And we make our judgments about him from what we see and hear via those media.

    This whole thing sounds like a case of the Emperor’s New Clothes.

  4. Our mayor is a pompous twit, and arrogant with it. He could criticize the “blue ring” because it wasn’t approved under his watch; this one is on him. And to insult local native artists is just plain stupid but so typical of His Purpleness.

    Sky burials are not unique to the Blackfoot culture (I remember photos of similar burials among the Kwakiutl of British Columbia though they may be called tree burials), or even to North America – Google “sky burial” and you’ll get a lot of information about said burials in Tibet, China, and Australia. However, an “artwork” which evokes such burials is not what one would normally want as a “welcome” to one’s city. Then for the artist to claim he was invoking the aboriginal spirits because he had spoken briefly to an unnamed elder is equally insulting.

    Finally, the comments about the unique textures on the rocks put the frosting on the cake. At 100 km/hour, how is one supposed to take in said textures, even if one knows they are there.

    This is one voter who is REALLY, REALLY angry about this and will do all that is possible to defeat the mayor and sidekicks. Our home is full of paintings by Albertans (artwork was the gift of choice for the offsprings at graduation and weddings); we attend plays and concerts; and we support the local arts scene. I are so very tired of being condescended to by the elites who only see our family as ATM’s. And I am getting extremely tired of rusty beams littering our landscape, no matter how “artistic” they are proclaimed to be.

  5. Agreed: rust and decay are not symbols of a vibrant city. We already had “art” like this in the downtown core after the economy crashed in 1981. One of those towers stood as a rusty hulk for over a decade until it was turned into school board offices.

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