Travelling Light Sculpture: Calgary Public Art Piece Panned By Nenshi, Calgarians

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Calgary is making no bones about the fact it wants to leave its mark when it comes to Avant-garde architecture and public art.

But the latest public art structure unveiled in the city even has Calgary's esthetics-loving mayor Naheed Nenshi reeling.

While recent projects, such as the Bow Tower and the Peace Bridge, have garnered international recognition, and most smaller city public arts projects have been well-received, the latest item is finding no love.

Less Trevi Fountain or Eiffel Tower and more basketball hoop or dog catcher, the $470,000 giant ring along the side of 96 Avenue was panned by Nenshi, who didn't mince words and called it out as "awful."

“I don’t like it. I think it’s awful. I understand that it’s a work of engineering feat to balance it on its edge like that. I think it’s terrible,” the Calgary Herald quoted him as saying.

Speaking to the CBC's Calgary Eyeopener, Calgary's public art program superintendent Rachael Seupersad said the sculpture, which is also located near the airport and called 'Travelling Light,' "essentially represents the universal mode of transportation ... the wheel.

"The artists really looked at the environment and the surrounding area ... it really is a place where all modes of transportation and movement come together and that is sort of captured and symbolized within this piece."

But what Twitter captured from the entire exercise was anger, confusion and frustration from Calgarians who didn't get it, who didn't like it, or who didn't like the fact they paid for it.

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Nenshi may not be a fan of the massive loop, but he's still fully supportive of Calgary's public art policy - which sees the city put aside one per cent of the costs of municipal construction projects toward public art - that made the piece, the Herald reported.

But he would like to make the policy more flexible, Nenshi told The Calgary Sun.

“I have pushed for a lot more flexibility in that policy along with Ald. (Shane) Keating, because I think that putting art where people are whipping by at high speeds is maybe not the best use of the 1%,” he said.

Not wanting to wear the loop around his metaphorical neck, Nenshi quickly distanced himself from the piece, telling the CBC the project was decided on before he was elected.

It's not a good time for any civic politician to be deflecting public anger. Calgarians go to the poll to elect a new council on Oct. 21.

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