Artist Selected to Create Landmark Public Art for BMO Centre Expansion

    A rendering of the Spirit of Water
    · 6 min read

    CMLC and the Calgary Stampede are delighted to announce the latest addition to the BMO Centre’s dramatic expansion—a 70-foot-tall, 112,000-pound steel sculpture by UK-based artist Gerry Judah called Spirit of Water.

    This installation will be a focal point of BMO Centre’s outdoor plaza—a 40,000 sq. ft. year-round gathering space on the expanded building’s south side.

    Public art has been an important element of the expansion since the onset of the project. In 2021, CMLC and the Calgary Stampede initiated a multi-stage process to identify qualified artists or artist groups to develop the expansion’s public art. The first stage involved an RFQ process that garnered an initial response from 218 artists and artist groups from around the world. Each was reviewed for their qualifications, and 39 advanced to review by a volunteer jury of 11 local experts in art and placemaking.

    While referencing the identity of the expanded BMO Centre and providing a landmark to help orient visitors to Calgary’s Culture + Entertainment District and Stampede Park, it was important that the creative vision for the art celebrate Calgary’s heritage and the Calgary Stampede’s western identity. The public art must also honour the history and significance of the area, serve as a gathering space for visitors, and contextually align with the architectural scale of the building and human scale of activations around it.

    A shortlist of six artists/artist groups were invited to advance to the RFP stage to submit more detailed proposals. Following several days of artist presentations and 14 hours of deliberations, the jury’s seven voting members ultimately recommended Gerry Judah’s Spirit of Water for approval by the project’s steering committee.

    As a renowned international artist, Gerry Judah has created many public art works over his career, including striking large-scale pieces for festivals, museums and public realms in the US, UK, New Zealand and United Arab Emirates.

    “CMLC has been fortunate to be involved with many exciting public art projects in downtown’s east end over the years, both temporary and permanent, and we are thrilled to have an artist of Gerry’s calibre supporting the BMO Centre expansion project,” said Kate Thompson, CMLC’s President & CEO. “Spirit of Water has historic and contemporary meaning that relates uniquely to the site, just as the architecture of the BMO Centre’s new pavilion and canopy does. This iconic sculpture will perfectly complement the design of the building and elevate the guest experience.”

    Kerri Souriol, Director of Park Development at the Calgary Stampede, is eager to welcome this new sculptural installation to Calgary Stampede’s public art collection. “We are thrilled for the addition of Spirit of Water on Stampede Park, as it will create a focal point for visitors in our community and from around the world to gather at the newly expanded BMO Centre,” said Souriol. “The tradition and celebration of art is a part of the Stampede’s history, stewarded by our volunteer Public Art Committee, as a way to reach out to our community and tell the story of our western heritage and values. This incredible work by Gerry Judah will join our 14-piece outdoor public art collection and add to our storied history and celebration of community.”

    Spirit of Water is a vivid artwork composed of more than 200 vertical steel tubes that form a dramatic “splash” of water, creating a beacon for visitors in the exterior plaza space.

    “I was drawn to this opportunity because the dramatic space offered required a dramatic response,” said artist Gerry Judah. “I chose water as the central theme given its enormous power and universality. It’s essential to everything. Water and water symbols have also been an integral part of ancient societies and cultures. It further remains one of the most important elements of nature, and one that continues to hold its importance, both as a physical object and as a symbolic representation of various universal concepts. Here the sculpture represents the power of water from above, splashing down and splashing out. In this case, the water, though reaching out, is still connected together as if to hold on to who we are, our histories, our values, and our dreams.” Judah adds, “I’m very proud for the opportunity to have worked with CMLC and the Calgary Stampede to bring this piece to life in such an exciting and important time for Calgary’s revitalization. It is my hope that Spirit of Water will capture the spirit of its particular place in Calgary.”

    “This is another important step toward amplifying Calgary’s downtown cultural, arts, and entertainment identity,” said Mayor Jyoti Gondek. “Spirit of Water will build on the character of the BMO Centre, of Stampede Park, of The Culture + Entertainment District, and of Calgary’s public art collection as a whole. The piece will be a stunning focal point gracing this wonderful new cultural icon in our city.”

    The BMO Centre expansion’s public art budget of $2.25M dollars was guided by The City of Calgary’s policy for funding, acquisition and management of public art in Calgary, and is inclusive of all fees, expenses, fabrication costs, delivery and installation.

    Local firm Heavy Industries will work with the artist and BMO Centre project team to manage the installation of Spirit of Water in spring 2024.

    Gerry Judah’s Spirit of Water -- a 70-foot-tall, 112,000-pound steel sculpture -- will act as a gathering place and a beacon for the expanded BMO Centre.

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