12 Funky Installations To See At the Glow Downtown Winter Light Festival

There’s a new winter festival in town and it's going to brighten your spirits from February 17 to 20.

rendering by caitlind r.c. brown and wayne garrett

See Monument to Fallen Stars at 4th Avenue and 5th Street S.W.


February in Calgary is dark and cold. And it’s been that way for a few months already. Chances are, winter is getting to you. If that’s the case, you’re going to want to check out the new Glow Downtown Winter Light Festival

The inaugural outdoor winter festival will run February 17 to 20 at various locations downtown. It’s a free, family-friendly festival made up of interactive, brightly coloured installations that will probably lift your spirits and help you get through the last few weeks of winter. 

There are 12 installations in the downtown core created by local, national and international artists. There are also special activities running all weekend long, including a skating party at Olympic Plaza on the Family Day Monday and an Afterglow Lounge on Stephen Avenue where Calgarians can mingle with the artists on Friday and Saturday night. 

If you’re hoping to see all 12 installations, start at the Harley Hotchkiss Gardens. Then, head down to 4th Street SW and to Olympic Plaza and circle back to the Harley Hotchkiss Gardens. It’s most convenient to take the LRT and get off at the eastbound 6 Street SW CTrain station. If you’re driving, park at The Core. 

If you're not sure what to expect, here are some basics to get you started. 


The installation that’s (kind of) like a warm shower

Title: A Light Shower

Artist: Anton De Groot 

Where to find it: Harley Hotchkiss Gardens, 611 4 St. S.W.

What it’s all about: First things first, keep your clothes on. Second, know you’re not going to get wet. Turn on this shower, and summer colours and sounds will come out of the faucet. Hear sounds recorded during the Calgary Folk Festival, from along the Bow River and during summer nights. After such summery shower, you’ll definitely leave feeling warm and relaxed. 


The installation that brings adorable, inflatable bunnies to the Harley Hotchkiss Gardens

Title: Nibbles

Artist: Amanda Parer 

Where to find it: Harley Hotchkiss Gardens, 611 4 St. S.W.

What it’s all about: Remember the rabbits that appeared throughout the city during Beakerhead in 2015 and 2016? They’re back. Have a look at the bunnies and think about how we interact with the natural world. 


The installation that will make you feel like you’re on a tropical vacation

Title: Tropicalgary

Artists: Other Dream Logics, (Ghost River Theatre)

Where to find it: Harley Hotchkiss Gardens, 611 4 St. S.W.

What it’s all about: It’s been really, unbearably cold and snowy recently. This installation wants you to forget about all that. You need to go on a sunny, warm vacation — without leaving Calgary, that is. Warm up with palm trees, flowers and synthwave sunsets that are part of an interactive, architectural mapping installation. 


The installation that’s made from a lot of old streetlights 

Title: Monument to Fallen Stars

Artists: Caitlind r.c. Brown and Wayne Garrett

Where to find it: Grid 5, 425 5 Ave. S.W. 

What it’s all about: Walk across an empty parking lot, see lights flickering on and off, and try to figure out why these lights are set up in this formation. After you look through the telescope set up in the centre of the piece, you’ll realize that the streetlights have been set up like familiar constellations. 


The installation that is an electric dance party, in a way

Title: Pulse Quasar

Artist: Robert Turriff

Where to find it: Fifth Avenue Place, 420 2 St. S.W. 

What it’s all about: This installation is a “piezoparty,” which is definitely not the same thing as a pizza party. Pulse Quasar relies on kinetic energy from passers-by to generate enough electricity to light up the sculpture. Kinetic energy is collected using a piezoelectric element that’s mounted to the sidewalk. So, get ready to jump and dance to make this piece light up. 


The installation that will encourage you to look at chopsticks in an entirely new way

Title: Chopsticks = Chandelier

Artist: Jeremy Tsang

Where to find it: James Short Park, 115 4 Ave. S.W. 

What it’s all about: This installation aims to recognize several things: Chinese New Year, Chinese culture and the migrant workers who built the Canadian Pacific Railway. The result is an enormous chandelier made entirely out of chopsticks and their rests. 


The installation that's fit for a king 

photograph courtesy of downtown calgary

Title: Prismatica

Artists: Raw Design, produced with support of Quartier Des Spectacles Partnership

Where to find it: Olympic Plaza, 228 8 Ave. S.E. 

What it’s all about: This piece is basically a modern, colourful ice palace. Prismatica is made up of 50 moving prisms, each two metres high, made of different colours. This one is just as beautiful in the day as it is as night. 


The installation that will make you seem really happy

Title: Smile

Artists: Varvara & Mar

Where to find it: York Plaza Hotel, 636 Centre St. S. 

What it’s all about: When you smile at this installation, it will light up. And hopefully, that will brighten your spirits. 


The installation that captures trees’ conversations

Title: Play Taps Do Reservoir Dogs

Artists: Sarah Storteboom and Lindsay MacDonald

Where to find it: First Canadian Centre — Mini Park, 350 7 Ave. S.W. 

What it’s all about: This piece imagines what it would be like if trees could talk to each other. Trees are covered in LED lights, and there’s flashing and Morse code. It’s clear that this is a form of communication, but you’re not sure exactly what the conversation it about. 


The installation that will teach you a little bit about science

Title: The Breath of Life

Artists: Eveline Kolijin and Brian Queen

Where to find it: Eighth Avenue Place Plus-15, 525 8 Ave. S.W. 

What it’s all about: This piece is made from 24 LED lamps and combines art with engineering and bio-science. You might learn a little about our biosphere’s Oxygen-Carbon Dioxide Cycle. Even if that’s over your head, you’ll still be able to appreciate how pretty it is.


The installation that has different experiences on the other side of one door

Title: The Door

Artist: Paul Magnuson (THE PRGM)

Where to find it: Eighth Avenue Place, 525 8 Ave. S.W. 

What it’s all about: Open this ordinary white door and you won’t just see to the other side of 8th Avenue S.W. Instead, you’ll see an animated, augmented version of reality on the other side. And each time the door opens, a new version of reality will play out. 


The installation where you feel like someone’s watching you 

Title: The Overseers

Artists: Jordan Schinkle and Anna Semenoff

Where to find it: Former Chicago Chophouse, 604 8 Ave. S.W. 

What it’s all about: This is a projection that shows large, shadowy figures walking around in the darkness. Every so often, these figures might be illuminated by light. Look closely at these figures and you might see some of them smile or wave. 


The inaugural Glow Downtown Winter Light Festival kicks off on Friday, February 17 and runs until Monday night. The festival runs nightly from 6:30 p.m. until 11 p.m. at various downtown locations. calgarydowntown.com.


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