I heard about the Raincoast Conservation‘s art exhibit, Art for an Oil-Free Coast, in City Hall on the radio on my way home from work. Alderman Diane Colley-Urquhart was being interviewed and saying how the art exhibit was beautifully done but did not follow city hall’s protocol for showing art in public spaces. Raincoast was displaying paintings and sculptures by well-known Canadian artists, including coveted Canadian wildlife artist Robert Bateman, but City Hall’s problem was that the pieces were on sale and the procedes go towards stopping the Northern Gateway pipeline, which Colley-Urquhart deemed as political in nature. She went on to say that Calgary in an “oil city” and so she has a natural bias to anything standing in the way of Alberta’s primary source of revenue. She added that Raincoast duped City Hall into allowing an exhibit political in nature that goes against Calgary’s best interest. Needless to say, the radio interview sparked my interest and I laced into my running shoes and headed down to City Hall.
The first thing I noticed when I got there was how stunning the exhibit was. It was small but the fifty artists who were involved made soulful works which reverberated their deep love for the B.C. coast. My eyes immediately sought out the white stickers that covered the price tags which I had heard about on the radio. Ms. Colley-Urquhart had said that the Raincoast representatives, once asked not to be selling their works in City Hall, quickly covered up their price tags so as to appear caught in a lie. But, when I asked Brian Falconer, Raincoast’s Marine Operations Coordinator, about this he informed me that City Hall had actually given them the stickers to cover up the prices. And as for Raincoast duping City Hall, Falconer said they had art to share with Calgary’s public and simply followed the city’s application procedures. I also spoke with Mr. Falconer about Ms. Colley-Urquhart’s statement of Calgary being an “oil and gas” town and Falconer stated that Calgary, in fact, has had many founding industries. It was known first as a Fort Town ideal for trading whisky and buffalo robes to other parts of Canada. It also became known as a sandstone town, which ironically is the material that the old city hall is made from, and for a long time Calgary was a hub for ranchers. So to say Calgary is only an oil and gas town is to pigeonhole and restrict its essence. And from what I have seen in my travels around this town there is much more to it than corporations and a bottom line.