WATERSHED+ is an innovative and unique public art program hosted by Utilities and Environment Protections department of the City of Calgary.
WATERSHED+ is a way of working that aims to develop awareness and pleasure in the environment, not by changing water management practice, nor developing a uniform visual language, but rather by creating a climate of opportunity for water initiatives to build an emotional connection between people and the watershed.
Its guiding motive is to embed artists and, more specifically, their creative process within UEP core activities and the Calgary watershed. This program presents an innovative approach to public art and a distinct way of working with the public and other partners.
WATERSHED+ proposes a long term plan which represents a major step in taking creative practice further into the day-to-day activities of UEP and implementing new working methods and processes.
WATERSHED+ is currently in its Pilot Period, an initial 18 months to establish and develop the foundations of the program.
The WATERSHED+ program was developed by artist team sans façon through the UEP Public art Plan. Sans façon has been selected as the Lead artist for the pilot period.
“Speaking of snow, of course we were all talking about snow, I just emptied the ice-cube tray in the freezer into an ice-holding container and refilled the tray with water, which happens to come from the creek. That’s where I get my water, so the snow just recently up in the mountains is now in my freezer to be refrozen into different-shape flakes, nice in a glass of whiskey.”
An Unfortunate Woman, Richard Brautigan, 1982
Water plays a major part in our appreciation of the environment, whether we are boating on it or simply gazing at its glinting surface. Rivers, lakes, waterfalls form focal points for trips into the wilderness, and these same features carry their pleasures into the hearts of our cities and the boundaries of our neighbourhoods.
Where the “wild” water is visible and beautiful, by contrast the anonymous, sometimes numbered, “utile” water is culverted and hidden. There are, we might want to say, two watersheds – one lived with and loved and the other subterranean and subtracted – unconnected to one another. Utility-water is perceived as a functional fluid, lacking the connotations of pristine lakes visited during the week-end, we do not consider this facility any more than we do electricity primed in the plug sockets.
A growing gulf between ‘nature’ and the way we live in cities is a familiar idea. As we focus on function, efficiency and economy, the capacity of science and engineering to engage the public, or to contribute to our enjoyment of a place, becomes ever more obscure. However, the unloved, un-imagined and unknown water infrastructures could, and should, have a role in encouraging a sustainable and creative relationship between people and place. Infrastructures and systems, when built and invested with imagination, can do more than generate physical changes in water quality, they can create new associations and meanings, changing and defining the character of a place and how we relate to it.
How then do we reconnect the understanding and awareness of the watershed in the wilderness with the watershed in the city? How can we add imagination and intrigue to the systems and infrastructures that form this undoubtedly urban, historically created and planned watershed?
Answers will not come from any one specialty nor field of expertise, quite the opposite. There is a need for an expanded dialogue between disciplines. Watershed+ is about involving creative practitioners and developing creative practice right from the conception stage. Its focus is not the creative object or the aesthetic but developing the creative thinking in the conception of structures, systems and their understanding.
The possibility for intrigue is already at the heart of water management. The myriad of structures and systems are, in themselves, often fascinating in their processes and mechanisms. They do not necessarily need to be altered, making them or their process visible can sometimes be enough to begin creating awareness of this other aspect of the watershed.
Watershed+ is a way of working that aims to develop awareness and pleasure in the environment, not by changing water management practice, nor developing a uniform visual language, but rather by creating a climate of opportunity for water initiatives to build an emotional connection between people and the watershed.
When the impact of water management is explored at every level – not just physical, but social and historical – systems and structures can add a new level of richness to people’s experience of their function and their relationship to a place.
“[Water] engineers are concerned with the land, and the forces that shape it over time; the patterns of rivers, the behaviour of the sea and its influence on the coast; the way that weather shapes the places we move through; the effect of water management on the development of communities. This is the stuff of art. The water engineer deals with truly poetic material, though they are often required to reduce it, through instrumental analysis, to hydraulic profiles, flood levels, flow rates, pollution levels…”
Art, engineering and the environment – A better solution? Mark Fletcher, Paul Simkins, for Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management Rivers and Coastal Group, May 2008
In 2007, the Public art Program and UEP launched a new Public art Plan. The UEP Public Art Plan is founded on the principle that public art, in collaboration with other disciplines, can create remarkable places that encourage sustainability and stewardship of the environment.
As a result of the UEP Public art Plan WATERSHED+ was developed by an artist lead multidisciplinary team as a visionary new program to embed artists and artistic practices within UEP’s core activities.
WATERSHED+ was initially shaped over 2009/10 by a team of experts from diverse disciplines brought together especially by Sans façon to respond to a commission under the UEP Public Art Plan. This collaborative approach involved first, establishing and then, building upon the overlapping knowledge and expertise of arts practice, architecture, design, geography and water engineering – within the unique context provided by the Calgary watershed.
During the development period the team sought to learn from and reconfigure their project through contact with UEP staff involved in planning, managing and maintaining the watershed.
The process of research and response to the context of Calgary and UEP formed the early working methodology of what was to become WATERSHED+. (Internal ink to Core Group)
The team was led by artists Sans façon (Charles Blanc, Tristan Surtees) and consisted of:
Matt Baker has developed participatory and collaborative techniques through projects ranging from temporary events/installations to large-scale permanent artworks and cultural strategies for programmes of urban change.
Senior Designer at ISO, Glasgow, Emlyn also runs his own practice, A Visual Agency, which is a platform for multi-disciplinary collaborations.
Emlyn has worked with and for a broad range of cultural and commercial clients, including Glasgow International Festival of Contemporary Visual Art, The Glasgow School of Art, Nike, IKEA and Channel 4.
A recent major project involved developing and producing creative social network thisiscentralstation.com, which aimed to create a cross-disciplinary, collaborative online space for artists, designers and film-makers.
Emlyn is also a frequent guest lecturer at The Glasgow School of Art, and advises on design policy as part of The UK’s Design Council’s Scottish Design Alliance.
Emlyn was named Young Designer of The Year in 2006 at The roses Awards, Manchester.
Senior research Fellow, School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh.
“What continues to motivate my work is the realisation that we miss so much of what is familiar to us because of its very familiarity. The social sciences and the humanities, of which my research is a tiny part, claim to represent and explain society and humanity. The arrogance of this premise is the basis for a collection of studies of practice, and responses to theory, associated with ethnomethodology, actor-network theory and philosophy of ordinary language. It is those studies which I continue to learn from and which form the perspective I take in my research. To give you a feel for the research topics on which I bring this perspective to bear: visual aspects of interaction, public space, mobility, technology, workplaces, human-animal relations, everyday life in the city, conviviality, neighbourhoods, wayfinding, driving, practical reasoning, conversation, gestures, video.”
Director, Yes Architectes.
“For 10 years our projects have fluctuated between public spaces, social housing, public buildings and temporary installations. The ethic of the practice is defined by our care for the quality of uses, atmospheres and a sense of respect and integration in the built environment and landscape.
Beyond any formally defined position we prefer to touch upon opportunities created by places, encounters and situations. The conviction that a good project cannot be created alone but through a collective movement brought us to value and to insist upon a personal relationship with the range of partners involved in our projects. This same desire to meet and share brought us to teach in different universities (Saint-Etienne, Clermont-Ferrand, Grenoble and Marseille), developing a research/action process to generate fertile debates and sharing of knowledge with other generations.”
m.sc., P.eng. | urban drainage specialist
Bert has over 20 years of experience in the analysis, planning, design and management of urban and rural drainage, stormwater management and watershed management projects in Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Ontario, with special interest in sustainability initiatives.
He has spoken widely on stormwater quality, constructed wetlands, and rainwater harvesting and streams in urbanizing regions. As member of the Bow river Basin Council, he served on one of the Basin Advisory Committees for the South Saskatchewan river Basin Management Plan, and currently serves on the Legislation and Policy Standing Committee. In addition to his daily duties he is also Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Schulich School of Engineering at the University of Calgary.
He is member of the Urban Water resources research Council and is involved with several working groups of the IWA/IAhr Joint Committee on Urban Drainage.
The City of Calgary’s Utilities & environmental Protection (UEP) department includes four city business units:
– environment & safety Management,
– Waste & Recycling services,
– Water Resources and
– Water services.
Through Water Resources and Water services UEP manages the quality and delivery of Calgary’s water supply – from the river, to the taps and back to the river – protecting public health by delivering clean, reliable drinking water and by treating Calgary’s wastewater before it returns to the river.
UEP also manages the city’s stormwater drainage, responding to floods and contributing to the conservation of the precious water resource.
The City of Calgary’s Public art Program, within the division of Culture, is committed to great public art that impacts Calgary’s urban landscape and transforms the way Calgarians see, think and experience the city around them.
Established in January 2004, the Public art Program ensures the allocation of 1% of all capital Upgrade and Growth projects over $1 Million to public art (excluding land purchase, capital maintenance programs, moveable equipment and rolling stock). Scope of public art opportunities, as outlined in the Policy, includes discrete, semi-integrated, integrated and temporary works, and allows for artists on design teams, community based public art and special projects such as artist residencies.
Developed under the Public Art Program for UEP, it focuses on the idea of ‘a city within a river and a river within a city’ and aims to change public perception of the watershed, celebrate its history and bring a new perspective on the aesthetics of its infrastructure.
Sans façon began as an investigation between British artist Tristan Surtees and French architect Charles Blanc and has developed into an ongoing, collaborative art practice. Their work explores the complex relationship between people and place.
Over the past 10 years they have worked internationally on diverse projects of both a temporary, permanent and strategic nature.
WATERSHED+ contributes to a greater awareness and knowledge of the watershed and its issues, provoking genuine curiosity and interest
Cross-disciplinary, collaborative processes brings about enriched experience, innovative work, and strong products.
A spirit of openness, a wide-reaching knowledge base and ongoing encouragement, brings about greater capacity, confidence and further advancement for all.
WATERSHED+ can contribute to a positive environmental and cultural identity for the city and its citizens locally and globally.
UEP’s infrastructure projects and initiatives can be expressive of and distinctive to their location and culture.
Considered water management initiatives and infrastructures can enrich Calgary’s experience of urban life and stimulate creative parallels with the wild watershed and enjoyment of the great outdoors.
A creative practitioner, driving the implementation of WATERSHED+, devising and leading the development and delivery of the creative vision and the practical projects and initiatives, in conjunction with the Project Manager and the Core Group.
The Lead Artist’s role is not of a traditional ‘lone’ artist working individually in a studio but a specific type of artist acting in concert with UEP and the Public Art Program and motivated by working collaboratively with specialists outside their field of expertise.
The Project Manager works closely with the lead artist to drive and deliver the program. Where the Lead Artist’s role is to drive WATERSHED+ creatively, the Project Manager manages the practical delivery of projects and assist and advise the Lead Artist and the Core Group about the strategic and practical deliverability of all aspects of the program.
The Core Group consists of UEP staff across departments, holding a wealth of expertise and experience. Having helped shape WATERSHED+ during its development, the Core Group will continue to assist in driving the program and its implementation.