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Downtown Public Art Circuit tour

Get up close and personal with Calgary's public art! The Downtown Public Art Circuit is a self-guided art tour that introduces you to some of the unique pieces of artwork exhibited in the Civic Art Collection of the Public Art Program.

Easily accessible through the +15 system, this free tour is primarily indoors with just a few quick trips outside. All exhibits are explained in detail with commentary on the significance of the artwork, some background information on the artist and more.

For more information, please contact the Public Art Program.

Calgary's Downtown Public Art Circuit

The Public Art Circuit app for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad

Download the Downtown Public Art Circuit app on your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad. Great photos, GPS-enabled map, and narrative promise a fun and educational experience.


The Downtown Public Art Circuit podcast

Download the Downtown Public Art Circuit Podcast to your computer, iPod or favourite MP3 player, and tune in as your guide takes you through fascinating stories behind the art.


The Downtown Public Art Circuit self-guided tour brochure

Print out theArt Circuit tour brochure and follow along as you take an art walk at break-time, lunch-time or anytime!

The Downtown Public Art Circuit cell phone narrative

Flip open your cell phone while walking the Circuit, call (403) 268-1616 and listen to great narrative while you stroll along.


About the tour

Distance 1.2 km through downtown buildings, including seven different +15 corridors
Duration 40 - 50 minutes to complete the circuit
Accessibility Wheelchair accessible
Hours Most +15 corridors are open Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Cost Free
Location The suggested starting point is the south entrance of the Municipal Building (8th Avenue and 2nd Street S.E.) by the parking pay station.
The tour is primarily indoors with just a few exhibits outside.

Artwork on the tour

About the Art

So the Bishop Said to the Actress

By John Seward Johnson Jr.

Audio description

This work, titled “So the Bishop Said to the Actress,” is unofficially known as the “two slowest painters in town”. The artist, John Seward Johnson Junior, was born in 1930 in New York, and is the heir to the famous Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceuticals company. He also owns and operates the Johnson Atelier bronze foundry, where he has fabricated sculpture for other artists since 1979.

This work celebrates the everyday moments in our lives. Johnson feels that in the 21th century we are so overwhelmed with the speed and complexity of life that sometimes we forget to take time to reflect on those moments that we share with others.

The title is the ending to a joke that one painter is telling to the other, “…So the Bishop Said to the Actress.” It’s a vaudeville punch line and expression that traces its origins to early English theatre. Actresses were considered to have loose morals and, as a result, supplemented their meager income with prostitution. Clergymen spent time with them hoping to encourage them to change their ways.

This work was donated by the Devonian Foundation in 1990 and is an edition of 3, with one of the other sculptures mounted on scaffolding outside of a collector’s home.

There are two other works by John Seward Johnson in Calgary. The first work is situated outside the conservatory at the Calgary Zoo, and is of two children sharing an ice cream cone. The second is called “The Winner” and it is located on 8th Ave & 8th St SW. It’s a solitary chess player sitting at a table, inviting you to become the opponent.

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The Bears

By Suzanne Sablé

Audio description

Suzanne Sablé was born in Paris France where she studied painting, ceramics and sculpture. She married an American and moved to New York in 1956, but by 1966 she found herself a single parent. She moved to California with her two children, and in order to support her family, she worked for a toy company sculpting dolls and painting fine porcelain figurines.  

Don Harvie, son of Glenbow Museum founder Eric Harvie, saw her work in a gallery in California and commissioned this work specifically for the Municipal Building in 1982.

A consistent theme that runs throughout her private work is motherhood. She created the Suzanne Sablé Foundation, a non-profit organization to help single mothers achieve creative and financial endeavors.

In 1997 Sablé went on to develop a new technique using 3 dimensional painting, which is a combination of sculpture and painting. Additional creative work by Suzanne can be seen on the Carmel Art Association website at

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Family of Horses

by Harry O’ Hanlon

Audio description

This family of life-sized horses has been grazing in the Municipal Plaza at City Hall since 1989 and was donated by Margaret Southern, president and co-chairman of Spruce Meadows, a world-class equestrian centre located just south of Calgary.

The horses were created by artist Harry O’ Hanlon who lived the life of a true adventurer.

In 1947 he and his brothers bought a sailboat and set off from Vancouver to see the world. Off the coast of California they met a storm and almost lost their lives.

Undaunted, Harry jumped aboard a freighter headed for Panama where he lived and worked for 2 years. In 1939 he returned to Canada and joined the army where he met Betty Gilliatt, a member of the Medical Corps. They were married and sent to Normandy a few weeks after their wedding.

After the war, Harry and Betty went treasure hunting in Costa Rica and lived on a tropical island. Sometime later they traveled to Montana where they became ranchers, and Harry also took up painting.

He went on to complete over 50 portraits of First Nations People. As time permitted Betty and Harry continued to travel and experience the world from Turkey to Fiji and from Singapore to India.

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By Roy Leadbeater

Audio description

Roy Leadbeater was born in Ashborne-Darbyshire, England in 1928. His grandmother was Maud Louisa Wedgwood of the famous Wedgwood family, makers of fine china. His father was also an artist, but unfortunately Roy was orphaned at the young age of 8.

Although he attended night classes at the Birmingham School of Art and a few at the University of Alberta, he is primarily self taught.

His bronze sculpture on display in the Calgary municipal building is entitled “Joy”. The sculpture is figurative in nature and meant to abstractly represent the growth, nurturing and helpful support of a loving family environment.

Many people wonder how this work was made. Normally a bronze sculpture starts out as an object carved out of clay but this sculpture is unusual in that it has been built up in layers using Styrofoam sheets.

Creating a bronze sculpture is a labour intensive process. After the object has been sculpted, a rubber mould is poured around the object. When the rubber mould is removed it leaves a cavity which is the complete reverse of the original object, called a negative. Paraffin wax which has a low melting point is then poured into the cavity.

A high fire clay-based mould is then formed around the paraffin wax model and molten bronze was poured in. The wax melts away and what remains is a bronze casting of the original Styrofoam object.

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By Bill Morton

Audio description

This work is called, "Fragment" because it is inspired by the reflection of lights on water at night. The vibrant colour comes from real Marigold flowers used in the dyeing process. Layers of colour are created using a combination of wax resists and stencils. It was purchased by the Calgary Allied Arts Foundation in 1989.

The artist, Bill Morton, is a master of traditional Japanese fabric dyeing techniques, having worked for a decade at the Kunio Isa Textile Studio, in Kyoto, Japan. Kyoto is highly regarded for maintaining traditional textile techniques.

Bill, who is originally from Didsbury, lives part of the year in Kyoto, and teaches textiles at the Alberta College of Art and Design.

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Ex Diamond

By Vera Gartley

Audio description

20 years after the opening of the Plus 15 system, in the early 1990’s a competition was held to liven up the elevated corridor system with art. When artist Vera Gartley learned of the competition, she walked the entire system and chose a specific site to create a work for.

She wanted to transform a dark corner with light and a story. The text portion of her installation invites the viewer into a conversation between the artist and the maker of the lettering. In doing so, the viewer can gain some insight into the process of making this work.

The work is also based on the numbers 0 and 1. These numbers represent the basis of the mathematical Binary System used to control the Binary circuitry inside modern computers.

Artist Vera Gartley was born in Edmonton, Alberta, in 1933. She currently lives in Calgary, and has been teaching at the Alberta College of Art and Design since 1964. She received a Fine Arts Diploma from the Alberta College of Art and Design in 1960, a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Calgary in 1972 and a Ph.D. in Painting Practice and Methodology from the Union Institute, in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1987.

Gartley has worked in various media, including painting, installations, industrial signage and computer-based technologies. This work, Ex/Diamond, was purchased by the Calgary Allied Arts Foundation in 1993.

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Family of Man / The Brotherhood of Mankind

By Mario Armengol

Audio description

Seeing as how this sculpture is a Calgary landmark, it may surprise many people to know that this piece by Mario Armengol was not originally intended to be a work of public art. In fact, these characters were initially created as props for the British Pavilion at Expo'67 in Montreal.

The British pavilion was shaped like a huge cone and had a very high ceiling and these figures were actually inside the lobby of the building. Each figure represents gifts that Britain gave to its colonies, like justice and law.

At the end of the exposition, Britain did not want to keep the props. A Calgary construction company, Maxwell Cummings & Sons, bought them and donated them to the City of Calgary. They decided that the figures would be placed on Calgary Board of Education land located between 4th and 5th Avenue on Macleod Trail SE. But it was the parks department crew that unloaded the shipment made the decision to arrange the figures in a circle, and they have remained in that configuration ever since.

In 1967 Calgarians were outraged! These elongated, abstract, and notably naked figures were seen as offensive but over the years they have endured and are now one of Calgary’s better known landmarks. Its silhouette has been adopted as the logo of the Calgary Board of Education.

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Gargoyle sculptures

By Mark V. Marshall

Audio description

Artist Mark Marshall,, born in 1879 and passed away in 1912 was an English stone carver and had worked as an artist for Royal Doulton china in England.

The Southam family, who owned several newspapers, commissioned him to create several architectural details for the original Calgary Herald building in 1913. Among these details were several hundred original Gargoyles.

Years later, when the building was being torn down in 1972, the demolition crews began to destroy the Gargoyles as well.

Despite the public outcry only 240 were saved. The City auctioned off some of the salvaged ones with the proceeds going to the Historical Preservation Fund to finance future heritage projects.

46 gargoyles were kept by the City and a few of the larger ones are in the collection of the Glenbow Museum.

Others can still be seen at the Alberta Hotel Building, at Colonel Walker Park and at the Science ‘B’ Building at the University of Calgary.

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Space Flower

By Roy Leadbeater

Audio description

This is the City of Calgary’s Art Circuit Tour, Destination number 13, a bronze sculpture titled Space Flower, by Roy Leadbeater.

In addition to being an artist, Roy Leadbeater was also a merchant marine. The unknown territories of the deep sea and outer space were the sources of inspiration for this bronze sculpture titled "Spaceflower."

In 1978 he had a one man show in England and the British Broadcasting Corporation produced a film about his work called “Roy Leadbeater’s Space figures”. ‘

After 38 years of artistic practice, Roy is still painting and sculpting and has launched ROY LEADBEATER dot COM - a website featuring his work. Roy has been quoted as saying, "I'll never quit. One of the great advantages of being in the arts is that you never run out of ideas. What you run out of is time."

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The Little Mermaid

By Edvard Christian Johannes Eriksen

Audio description

This bronze sculpture is based on the fairy tale, “The Little Mermaid.”

The artist Edvard Christian Johannes Eriksen, is a Danish national treasure. His first sculpture was done in 1902, and in 1904 the Danish State Museum of Art bought his sculpture called "Hope". By 1908 he was asked to make sculptures for King Christian the 9th and the sarcophagus of Queen Louise. He was an honorary professor at the Academy of Art in Carrara, and in 1932 was awarded the Order of the Dannebrog, for his contribution to the arts.

The original sculpture that sits off the coast of Copenhagen was commissioned in 1909 by Carl Jacobsen of the New Carlsberg Brewery after seeing a ballet version of the story. Rumor has it the artist used his wife as a model for the face and a dancer for the body.

This sculpture is one of only three half-size versions and was purchased by the Danish Canadian Club of Calgary and donated to the City in 1974.

If you are not familiar with the story of the Little Mermaid, it goes something like this. The Little Mermaid swam to the surface of the sea and saw a ship with a handsome prince, and fell in love. A storm tossed the prince overboard and the Little Mermaid saved him from drowning. Longing for the prince, she visited the Sea Witch, who sold her a potion that gave her legs in exchange for her voice. Because she was unable to speak and express her feelings, the prince married another, and the Little Mermaid's heart was broken.

Her sisters exchanged a lock of the Little Mermaid’s hair (which you can see her holding in her hand in Edvard’s sculpture) for a knife. If the Little Mermaid killed the prince she would become a mermaid again and live out her life as before. She could not bring herself to kill the prince and her body dissolved into foam. This story and its moral of purity of heart, has become a symbol of Denmark.

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Citizen of the Century

By Hazel O’Brien

Audio description

This work called “Citizen of the Century” is a portrait of Colonel James Walker. Colonel Walker is best known for having the longest serving career in the North West Mounted Police. In 1880 he retired and managed the Cochrane Ranch until 1882 then bought a sawmill near the current site of Fort Calgary. James supplied timber to the settlers and to the Canadian Pacific Railway. He also started the first telephone system to connect his downtown offices to his sawmill. Colonel Walker was a prominent and well loved Calgarian known for his honesty and fairness.

Artist Hazel O’Brien grew up in Southern Alberta in the town of Raymond. She studied sculpture at the Banff School of Fine Arts, the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles and the American Academy of Art in Chicago.

She became the head artist of the Horseman's Hall of Fame and made many of the early trophies for Calgary Stampede. The Horseman’s Hall of Fame was a museum established in the late 1940s by James Cross of the Calgary Brewing and Malting Company. It was dedicated to southern Alberta ranchers and the Calgary Stampede and was considered one of the main attractions in the city at the time. The museum closed in 1975.

In 1975 Colonel James Walker was nominated as The City of Calgary’s "Citizen of the Century". There is a time capsule in the base of sculpture to be opened in 2075 that contains two 1975 newspapers, a telephone directory, a silver dollar, and the 10,000 names nominating Walker for the award

This work was transferred from Alberta Government Telephones and the Calgary Jaycees to the City of Calgary 1993.

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By Blake Senini

Audio description

This work, titled “Pristine,” was part of the 1990’s revitalization project to enliven the Plus 15 system, sponsored by the Alberta Foundation for the Arts and the Calgary Allied Arts Foundation. These three aluminum panels are beautifully proportioned within the space, quietly evoking nature, suggesting both tree trunks and the ocean.

Artist Blake Senini is a Vancouver artist who also teaches at the Alberta College of Art and Design. His work is part of many regional, national, private and public collections and is represented by the SKEW gallery. His new works are sculpted and laminated wood reminiscent of the west coast horizon line.

The work was purchased by the Calgary Allied Arts Foundation in 1993. 

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Women are Persons

By Barbara Paterson

Audio description

There are two "Women Are Persons!" monuments in Canada, one here in Calgary's Olympic Plaza and the other on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Part of this monument was featured on a Canadian stamp in October 1999 and it is currently pictured on the Canadian $50.00 bill.

British Common Law stated that women were "persons in the matter of pains and penalties, but not in the matter of rights and privileges". In 1927, the Famous Five persuaded Prime Minister MacKenzie King to ask the Canadian Supreme Court to clarify the word "persons" under the British North America Act of 1867.

When the Canadian court rejected their argument on April 24, 1928, the Famous Five persuaded the Government of Canada to appeal to the Judicial Committee of the British Privy Council. There, the Famous Five won their case and on October 18, 1929, Canadian women were legally declared "persons" and eligible for appointment to the Senate.

The Famous Five are:

  • EMILY MURPHY, Judge and Author
  • LOUISE McKINNEY, 1st woman elected to a Provincial Legislature
  • HENRIETTA MUIR EDWARDS, Lawyer and Activist
  • IRENE PARLBY, Cabinet Minister
  • NELLIE MC CLUNG, Suffragist and Author

Alberta artist Barbara Paterson is primarily known for her bronze figurative work. She works in a variety of media including wax, stone, bronze and welded steel and has sculpted numerous public commissions.

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Natural Engineer

By Don Begg

Audio description

Looking south through the window from the Municipal Building on to the grounds outside the Parkade office you will find the bronze sculpture of a beaver titled “Natural Engineer.”

Artist Don Begg , who engineered this sculpture, was born in Cochrane Alberta in 1945. He studied sculpture and bronze casting in Alberta, New York and California.

His Master career in this art form took shape in Cochrane where he began working at the Studio West bronze foundry. Don eventually took over the foundry and made it a family business that he operates with his wife Shirley, and daughter Karen.

Don has completed over 22 outdoor sculptures depicting wildlife, historic figures, western scenes and the oil and gas industry and has received numerous awards and high recognition for his work in Canada and the United States.

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