WATERSHED+ is about a system, a city, and an emotional connection between citizens and their place in the environment, it offers complementary ideas about the role of the artist and how artwork can be created, responsive, and embedded.
Its guiding motive is to embed, not so much the artist, as their creative process within the core activities of a City department – Utilities & Environmental Protection (UEP) – responsible for the well-being and care of Calgary’s water resource. The program creates space for long-term, cross-disciplinary relationships and for collaborations to grow, fostering a curiosity about the city while sharing interests and multiple perspectives to explore how people connect to their environment.
It is an optimistic gesture, embodying a different mode of operation, a different reality, complimentary, responsive, richer, beyond silos. The legacy, beyond the works produced, is the effect it has had on all of those who have been involved (citizens, staff, artists) and the way we each think and feel, the connection we feel to one another’s work, our watershed, our environment, our city.
WATERSHED+ was initially shaped over 2009/10 by a cross-disciplinary team led by Sans façon and consisted of:
Matt Baker (Artist, SW Scotland)
Emlyn Firth (Designer, Glasgow, Scotland)
Eric Laurier (Human Geographer, Edinburgh, Scotland)
Yan Olivares (YO Architects, St Etienne, France)
Bert van Duin (Water Engineer, Calgary)
In 2011, sans façon was selected to be the Lead Artist for the Pilot Period. Taking the WATERSHED+ Manual as its guide. This early stage provided a space to launch initiatives, learn from and evaluate them.
A variety of projects and artist involvement were trialed during the Pilot Period to inform and form the evolution of the program. These projects — be it a one-day event, a phone line, an international idea competition or an integrated installation three years in the making — illustrate the breadth of what artists can bring and the visionary approach of a municipal department. These projects are also evidence of the importance of what UEP, other City staff and the multitude of partners offered to artists, and the many ways they shaped WATERSHED+.
Some figures for the 5 years of the Pilot Period:
52 City of Calgary Business Units, Departments and Working Units involved, 24 Artists participated, 43 Partner and Participating Organizations involved, 20 Initiatives were implemented, 447 Applications to the Program’s Open Calls
Commissioned by the City of Calgary, as part of the Utilities and Environment Protection Public Art Plan
Canadian Art Magazine article: Calgary’s Watershed+ Revamps Public Art Expectations, by Tatiana Mellema, 2013