Mothballed burning ball sculpture making a comeback

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On top of its $559,500 design and fabrication cost, about $140,000 has been spent on its selection, maintenance storage and contingencies, says the city.

Thompson said some of the money from the sculpture’s budget has been spent on ensuring it doesn’t burn admirers again.

“We’ve been running through a number of tests to find the best safety solutions, specifically how light refracts from it,” she said.

“Safety is the key.”

If all goes according to plan, Wishing Well will find a new home early next year, said Thompson.

The piece’s Berkley, Calif., artists describe their work as “a mirror polished seed split open, where visitors can text phone message to the sculpture, in the form of wishes.”

The public-private partnership, said Thompson, is a pilot project in how the city’s art policy can be reconfigured.

It’s been under review after a series of high-profile pieces and their price tags soured many Calgarians, particularly the blue ring of Travelling Light in the city’s northeast and the Bowfort Towers installation near Canada Olympic Park.

That review goes to the community and protective services committee on Wednesday and will include the concept of an independent, external operator managing the program that would still be taxpayer-funded, said Thompson.

Thompson also noted concerns voiced by Ward 5 Coun. George Chahal that the city’s northeast fails to get its share of public art.

Chahal’s notice of motion on the issue urges the city to “explore public art opportunities in Ward 5 and surrounding northeast Calgary communities, with an emphasis on replacing the gap left by the Wishing Well at the Genesis Centre and further compensating for a historically inequitable distribution of public art funds in these communities.”

Part of the arts policy review includes spreading installations throughout the city, said Thompson.

“Our public art has been concentrated in the downtown core but, as the city has evolved, we’ve definitely seen a shift on how communities host (amenities) with a more equal distribution of artistic work,” she said.

Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn

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