Experience functional art at this revitalized Calgary island park

Feb 22 2021, 11:59 pm

Calgary is home to a seemingly endless number of amazing public green spaces, but the recently reopened Elbow Island Park brings an extra unique twist to the inner-city.

Elbow Island Park is located beneath Mission Bridge on 4th Street SW. The park was temporarily closed to the public back in 2017 to allow the City of Calgary to complete major park improvements, including fish habitat restoration and flood mitigation work.

In addition to these much-needed practical improvements, another upgrades included the installation of functional public art.

Several permanent artworks by local and national artists have been built into existing infrastructure. The pieces are meant to improve park safety and accessibility while preserving the natural elements of the park and leaving a small footprint on the land – and adding some fun.

“These public artworks create and enhance a space found between city and nature, land and river, public and private, camouflaged and forgotten,” says the City of Calgary.

Called “The Wandering Island,” this project helped to support 12 Calgarian and Canadian artists. Plus, the engineering, fabrication, and installation work was completed by local companies.

The Wandering Island’s mandate is to “create slow art for the audience of birds, bats, beaver, fish, and the occasional curious wanderer.”

To complete this mission, the artists consulted with a number of subject matter experts including ecologists, river engineers, Indigenous Elders, and members of the Moh’kinsstis Public Art Guiding Circle.


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The island now boasts an artistic staircase, a rock ford with stepping stones to cross a secondary channel of water, and seating that pushes the limits of an ordinary bench.

The City of Calgary invites us to “come and reconnect with the wildness of this special place in the heart of our city.”

The park reopened to the public at the end of December 2020 – have you checked out the revitalization yet?

Elle McLeanElle McLean

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