Calgary’s newest public art – not your traditional monument

Calgary’s newest public artwork titled Wolfe and the Sparrows will be installed on May 7 and 8 at the southwest corner of the new 12 Street Bridge in Inglewood. Canadian artist and professor of sculpture, Brandon Vickerd, hopes the work will encourage Calgarians to consider and reflect on how bronze monuments celebrate figures from our past.

Wolfe and the Sparrows is a cast bronze sculpture, inspired by an existing statue of General James Wolfe, sculpted by John Massey Rhind in 1898. General Wolfe was a British army general who led the British army to victory over the French during the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759. The original sculpture was gifted to The City of Calgary by Glenbow Museum founder, Eric Harvie, and now stands in a park in the community of Mount Royal.

Wolfe and the Sparrows may first appear to be a traditional monument, cast in bronze and raised on a pedestal. But as you move closer, a flock of sparrows–a bird species native to England, Wolfe’s place of birth–explodes from the figure, distorting Wolfe’s head and shoulders.

“This sculpture doesn’t celebrate a historical figure; it is transformative,” says Vickerd. “My responsibilities to the public are not to simply parachute something into a community without considering the socio-political, economic and cultural institutions already at play. As an artist, I see my role as engaging people in a conversation and introducing new ideas and concepts.”

The piece was fabricated in Calgary by BronzArt Casting Ltd.

“Brandon has created a truly original and unique sculpture,” says Vaughn Stewart of BronzArt Casting Ltd. “Due to its uniqueness, there were some highly challenging fabrication aspects for the foundry. By working hand-in-hand with Brandon, we were able to bring his vision to life.”

A project-specific public art selection panel chose artist Brandon Vickerd for this project. The concept for Wolfe and the Sparrows is the result of numerous conversations and exchanges with the citizens from surrounding communities, a process that was essential to the development of the artwork.

“From the get-go, the opportunity to work with the community to make a piece of public art that came from conversations with the people who were going to see it every day is what really drew me to this project,” says Vickerd.

The artist was allocated $220,000 to design, build and install the public art piece. This funding comes from the 12 Street Bridge $26 million capital budget.

The City of Calgary is currently developing a new public art process and will present a new direction for the program in 2020. Wolfe and the Sparrows is one of the remaining pieces that were underway before City Council directed a suspension of all new capital public art projects. Calgarians will see three additional projects completed in 2019 as part of the previous program.