Although not yet easily seen from the roadway, some of 144 concrete trout that make up the Glenmore / Elbow / 5th St. (GE5) public art project have been installed - with many, many more to come.
The competition for this project was held in late 2004 and more than 20 proposals were received. All the proposals were put through a jury review and in mid-January, it was announced that local artist Violet Costello had been awarded the $46,000 commission.
"Jumping Trout" is a repeating pattern of swimming and jumping fish, created in relief cast concrete and bolted in a strategic pattern along a concrete wave. The wave profile delineates the areas representing the sky and the water. Colour is achieved by strategically applied pigmented sealer to the precast panels. The 144 14-foot long trout were cast at Lafarge Precast in Calgary (as were the panels) and are created from integrally pigmented Ductal®, an Ultra High Performance Concrete (UHPC) which is a lightweight, thin and highly durable material.
The jumping fish on the upper half of the panels are brightly coloured to create the illusion of being lit by sunshine. The fish on the lower section of the panels, beneath the line of demarcation (or 'wave'), are more muted to suggest being submerged in water. The fish themselves are based on the brown and rainbow trout commonly found in the Bow River that runs through Calgary.
The GE5 public art project was initiated in the fall of 2004 and represents the biggest project, in terms of scope, to be undertaken through the Public Art Program to date. It also represents the first project in which the artists were commissioned solely to design the artwork and to consult, while Transportation Infrastructure (the commissioning business unit) retained responsibility for the fabrication and installation.
Violet Costello has an Honours Diploma in 3-Dimensional Studies from the Emily Carr College of Art and Design, and an MFA in sculpture from Concordia University, Montreal. She taught sculpture while at Concordia, as well as at the University of Saskatchewan, in Saskatoon. She is on both the Alberta Foundation for the Arts and the Calgary Arts Partners in Education Society artist rosters. She has received awards from Alberta Foundation for the Arts, British Columbia Culture, and Canada Council. Her large-scale sculptural installations have been exhibited throughout Canada.
Violet has collaborated with her partner Bob Thomasson on this and many other projects over the past 10 years. Bob graduated with a BFA from the University of Calgary in 1982. His artistic focus has primarily been large-scale 2-dimensional work. Together they have formed Costello Thomasson Inc. focusing more recently on outdoor sculpture, concrete and fiberglass.
The mold for the fish is constructed with a two-component urethane. Urethane provides a flexible contact surface that readily adapts to the dimensional changes that occur in the casting during the initial curing cycle.
The colour is achieved by using pigments incorporated into the UHPC mix. Factors that could cause colour variations are tightly controlled. This means accurately weighing all the ingredients including the water, as well as controlling the temperature of the mix. The first step in the process is to make small coloured batches that are placed in the mould in the areas that will become the spots and eyes. The next step is to place the pigmented back-up mix that encompasses the eyes and spots and also serves as the body that is the structural element of the precast fish.
The UHPC mix contains non-metallic fibre reinforcement. Finite element design analysis of the fish was undertaken to ensure structural adequacy. As a result of this analysis, minor changes to reveal depths were made to keep the stress levels within acceptable limits.
Not only is "Jumping Trout" a technological feat in terms of material and techniques employed, the project itself is a case study in successful cross-discipline cooperation and collaboration. Graham Construction, Stantec Consulting, Lafarge North America, Laser Spec., The City of Calgary (Transportation Infrastructure Department and the Public Art Program), the artists Violet Costello and Bob Thomasson, as well as many others, have all worked tirelessly to see this project succeed. Installation is scheduled to be complete in the fall of 2007.