Activities for 2012 focused on engaging children and increasing tourism

Calgary’s recreation and arts program was sparked in 1912 when a local mother sent a letter to the city asking for more activities to support children.

“Basically it was an appeal to keep children out of trouble and engage them in something healthy,” said Teresa Byrne, project manager for recreation centennial celebrations 2012.

In response to the plea, Calgary built a few supervised playgrounds and outdoor pool facilities. It has since grown to support 2-million Calgarians participating in an assortment of leisure activities.

“The city now has 1-million recreation and art program participants on a regular basis.

“We boast 19 arenas, 12 aquatic fitness centres, 11 athletic centres, six golf courses, two leisure centres, two art centres, a sailing school and support 250 plus festivals and events in Calgary each year,” Byrne said.

This year the city looked at planning cultural and healthy living events for each month. Different months will have feature activities such as experimental art shows, aquatic fitness and musical performances.

Hockey sticks as art

With this 12-month celebration in the works, many volunteers have stepped up to participate. Hockey stick installation made of old and donated hockey sticks — named The Canadian Bond by centennial event participants.
Photo by: April Ip

In January, approximately 24 volunteers helped out at the Hockey Day in Canada event.

Phil Conway, volunteer for January celebrations said, “The Hockey Hall of Fame interactive display was really neat to see. A volunteer artist was on site creating an ongoing sculpture of used and donated hockey sticks.”

Byrne added that “The development of the hockey stick installation and other components of the sculpture were created by children and adults who love hockey.”

Local artist, Matthew Bourree created the sculpture — named The Canadian Bond. The installation will remain on display at the Village Square Leisure Centre for the duration of 2012.

Entwining arts with healthy living

Going hand in hand with Calgary’s recreation programs is the city’s long and rich arts culture. 

Conway said that there are vast numbers of children’s programs combining things such as painting and outdoor activities. He added that Calgary has evolved from a few simple gardening activities to numerous before-and-after-school child programs, soccer fields, arenas and art camps.

“This is a golden opportunity to recognize what a sophisticated group we have become,” he said.”100 years of success really shows that were not just a city out in the west, but that we are a city fully engaged in our cultural spirit.”

May 2012 will mark the 25th anniversary of the Children’s Art Show. The North Mount Pleasant Arts Centre and The Wildflower Arts Centre — both city- owned centres — will recognize kids and their art achievements.

Conway is especially proud of his daughters, 13-year-old Carley Chomiak and 16-year-old Sydney Conway, who have had their artwork showcased at the annual art show in years past.

Byrne said, “Over the course of the year instructors are seeing children create tons of creative pieces. Some journeys have encompassed some very talented work.”

She said the pieces collected over the year will be juried just like a regular art show and then put on display at MOCA Gallery in the city’s downtown core. Village Square Leisure Centre, where the hockey stick art is displayed for the year.
Photo by: April Ip

“Children are invited to the grand opening where mayor Naheed Nenshi will be there to meet them,” she added.

Arts and culture manager Beth Gignac said that in 2012, the cultural year will feature Nuit Blanche, a community partnership with the international movement of an outdoor visual arts festival.

Nuit Blanche is typically an all-night festival that includes museums and art galleries open to the public free of charge. This will be the first year that the City of Calgary has partnered with such an event.

Increased tourism

Through government funding for events like Nuit Blanche, an increase in tourism is anticipated.

Ian Chiclo with Tourism Calgary said that the Conference Board of Canada forecasted a growth of three per cent in overnight visits for 2012.

“With everything that Calgary 2012 is doing, the word is definitely out there,” Byrne said.

She said that the Calgary Stampede is getting an international reach this year and has been ranked ninth for world events to attend in 2012.

“People are starting to see that Calgary has a tremendous amount to offer.”

aip@cjournal.ca