Work of Art: The Water Spiral by Michelena Bamford and Lane Shordee

Located on the grounds of the Wildwood Community Association, The Water Spiral is a kinetic sculpture that functions as a windmill, cistern and pump.


Photograph by Mark Eleven Photography


Title: The Water Spiral, 2014

Artists: Michelena Bamford and Lane Shordee

Medium: Reclaimed wood and metal, water.

Size: 12-feet high by 12-feet in diameter (above ground); eight-feet deep (underground).

Location: 4411 Spruce Dr. S.W.

Note: This project received support from the Wildwood Community Association and Calgary Economic Development, in partnership with the Calgary Foundation, through their Soul of the City Neighbour Grants, as well as individual donations and sweat equity from community volunteers. 


Located on the grounds of the Wildwood Community Association, The Water Spiral is a kinetic sculpture that functions as a windmill, cistern and pump. The main structure is a wooden deck inlaid with a spiral timeline marking the history of the neighbourhood. A bench encircles the deck. Four curved, metal sails catch the wind, gently revolving around a central shaft. The sails activate propellers in the tank below to aerate water collected from the roof of the Wildwood Community Centre via a downspout. Throughout the summer, children and adults alike delight in drawing water for the community permaculture garden designed by Ted Bahr of Prairie Sage Permaculture (the first community permaculture garden in the city) using an old-style hand-powered water pump. 

The sculpture has the folksy aesthetic of a prairie homestead: patchwork, resourceful, inventive. When mosaic artist and facilitator Michelena Bamford, a Wildwood resident for more than 20 years and owner of Wolf Willow Studio, envisioned a project for the community using recycled materials, she brought in scavenger artist Lane Shordee for his metal and woodworking skills. An associate artist with Watershed+ Dynamic Environment Lab, Shordee’s work often touches on water use. The collaborators soon found that they shared a real interest in and knack for community-building through art and hoped to connect land, environment and community in the space by the north wall of the community hall.

Bamford and Shordee rounded up wood and metal materials from the 2014 Wildwood Cleanup and built the sculpture on location. The Wildwood Community Association also allowed the artists to draw from a collection of street signs they had saved over the years. During a workshop led by artist and writer Jenna Swift, a co-facilitator on the project, neighbours came up with blessings for the water that Bamford then inscribed on a metal plate under the deck. The involvement of community members of all ages is what gives this project its distinct flavour, adding to the life of the community while creating a visual focal point, an outdoor social space and a reminder of the importance of water. 


photograph by Dana Prediger


This article appears in the June 2018 issue of Avenue Calgary. Subscribe here.


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