Ten monumental stone sculptures, including a Celtic cross, will greet motorists approaching the Town of Olds this spring.
The Highway 27 Sculpture Pathway is being created as a tourism initiative — as well as a way of enhancing the town’s “vibrant” arts scene, states a release from Doug Wagstaff, community services director for the municipality.
The sculpture park will also be fulfilling a long-held dream for Bergen-area resident Morton Burke. He has been envisioning the development of an outdoor gallery in central Alberta for the past 15 years.
“Oh, I’m really tickled! I’ve been wanting something like this ever since I started Bergen Rocks,” said Burke, a sculptor and former oilfield worker.
The international sculpture symposium he ran annually on his property from 2008 to 2011, was held to spark public appreciation of sculpture through the creation of stone artworks by artists from around the globe.
The Olds Highway 27 Sculpture Pathway will include three sculptures the town has purchased for $40,000. These include two Bergen Rocks works: A tall Celtic cross carved by Irish artist Paul Haggins, and an abstract profile of a Blackfoot chief called Canuck, by Quebec artist Tony Degugliemo.
There will also be a third commissioned sculpture being created for the town by Burke.
“I’m thinking of something like a buffalo head, but I won’t really know until I get started,” said the artist, who’s planning to complete it by June.
Seven other sculptures for the pathway will be loaned to the Town of Olds for the next decade. They are pulled from Burke’s own sculpture collection in Bergen, and include abstracted pieces by artists from Thailand, Vietnam and Kenya and China.
Burke can imagine people who are impressed with the Olds pathway later driving to check out the rest of the sculptures in Bergen. If another community becomes interested in creating a third sculpture park, “there could be a circuit,” he adds, with a chuckle.
The Highway 27 Sculpture Pathway, which already features two of the artworks on loan, is a concept the Town of Olds has been developing for about three years.
The intention is to “extent the vibrant art culture of the Olds community in a high profile area,” states Wagstaff.
Olds has one of the highest concentrations of artists of any rural Prairie community, according to Statistics Canada census results, which show artists comprise 1.4 per cent of the community’s labour force.
The sculpture park will draw attention to Olds and give drivers another reason to pull off the highway, added Wagstaff.
Town council approved $55,000 in its 2018 budget to create a park along Highway 27 to showcase art. The three sculptures were purchased with funds from the Destination Olds Collective Fund, which was set aside for tourism-based initiatives.