Calgary Arts Development chosen as future operator for Calgary’s public art program, and public art funding suspension lifted

As directed by Council, The City of Calgary has been moving forward with plans to transition the public art program to a third-party organization. The City is thrilled to announce that Calgary Arts Development was chosen as the future operator for Calgary’s public art program following a comprehensive citizen engagement, request for proposals (RFP) and selection panel process. To allow this transition to move forward, today Council lifted the suspension on public art funding, which has been in place since 2017.

Moving forward, The City will work with Calgary Arts Development to gradually transition oversight and implementation of public art projects and programs over the course of three years, with full transition expected to be complete in 2024.

“Calgarians are very passionate about the arts and continuing to make Calgary an inviting and vibrant place to live and visit,” says Jennifer Thompson, Manager of Arts and Culture at The City of Calgary. “Having a third-party operator for Calgary’s public art program will reduce barriers for Calgary’s local artist community to participate in the program, increase transparency for citizens, and increase investment in the local creative economy. We are extremely pleased that Calgary Arts Development was chosen to deliver the best program for Calgary.”

“We are very excited to have been selected as the proponent to undertake the public art program,” says Patti Pon, President and CEO of Calgary Arts Development. “Calgary Arts Development has been in existence since 2005 with a mandate to support and strengthen the arts to benefit all Calgarians. The public art program aligns perfectly with what we stand for; our commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility; our direct relationship with Calgary’s arts sector; and our vision for a creative, connected Calgary through the arts.”

Many letters of support accompanied the bid from Calgary Arts Development, with supporters describing their unique position within the arts community, their strong reputation, their collaborative spirit and their track record in running successful programs.

“As the city’s designated arts development authority and a valued Tourism Calgary stakeholder, Calgary Arts Development has a positive reputational standing in the community and a deep understanding of how Calgary’s people and culture differentiate us from other cities,” says Cindy Ady, CEO at Tourism Calgary. “Leveraging these strengths and its vast network of civic partners, arts organizations and artists, Calgary Arts Development is well-positioned to manage Calgary’s new direction for public art in a way that supports and strengthens our city’s arts and cultural fabric.”

“Without a doubt, Calgary Arts Development has the knowledge and expertise needed to run such a program that touches many aspects of the city,” Dr. Daniel Doz, President and CEO, Alberta University of the Arts. “Indeed Calgary Arts Development, with its stellar reputation in the community, has the capacity and capability to move the city's public art program forward. As the only art, craft and design university in Alberta and the prairies, and just one of four in Canada, we look forward to collaborating with CADA on community learning opportunities about the essential role art plays in our city.”

Additional Calgary organizations that supported the bid included Calgary Economic Development, Calgary Foundation, Rozsa Foundation, Arts Commons, Calgary Hotel Association, Platform Calgary and Edmonton Arts Council.

Procurement processes and increasing access and representation from a diversity of artists are key elements that will be improved by moving the program to a third-party organization. Currently, public art projects, regardless of scope and size go through The City’s complex procurement process which is primarily set-up to work with large companies on an international level. This creates barriers for both local and emerging artists.

Moving the public art program outside of The City will help deliver a streamlined and successful program for Calgarians. It will reduce red-tape by enabling the program to be flexible and directly connected with the arts community and Calgarians.

Organizations interested in running Calgary’s future public art program were invited to apply through The City’s standard procurement RFP process between September and December 2020.

Leading up to the procurement process, The City engaged extensively with Calgarians and the arts community. We heard from almost 3,000 individuals about their views and hopes for the future public art program. Information collected from Calgarians and the arts community was used to build the procurement process and write the RFP.

A seven-person selection panel, which included two Calgary arts professionals and two citizens-at-large, reviewed RFP submissions and recommended the organization that is best suited for the job. Calgary Arts Development was chosen for their proven in-depth knowledge and understanding in delivering art to Calgarians.