#InspiredBy Downtown Calgary’s Simple Little Secrets Inside Wonderland

#InspiredBy Wonderland at the Bow Tower in Calgary

“You’re supposed to go inside the big head and make a wish, Nana!”, Zacharie screamed as he ran out of the car. “And then you think of all your dreams and they come true!”

He knows the story, he knows the routine, he’s done it dozens of times. He dreams, he wishes, and he believes.

Wonderland, the big head at the base of the Bow Tower, is a fave with my boys. Whenever we drive down 6th Avenue after coming from somewhere in the east, we have to stop. I pull up the curb, and the boys hop out and run up to the structure, eager to run inside and dream.

Wonderland is a 12 meter sculpture created by Jaume Plensa standing outside The Bow Tower. It is the face of a young girl created by a mesh grid with doorways on either side of the base.

Is it Alice? Perhaps. The idea is you step inside the head and explore your dreams – Alice’s Wonderland? Perhaps.

‘My vision for Wonderland is to inspire everyone who experiences the sculpture: I believe the architecture of our bodies is the palace for our dreams’ said Plensa.

On this day I didn’t go in with them. Instead I let my boys and my parents pause inside and make their wish while I made one from the outside. I wished these days would never end; the awe, and wonder, and naive belief in magic my children have. I wished it would never go away. For a moment, I had that childlike attitude too – because of a twist of metal in the shape of a girl’s head outside a tall building.

They say public art is successful if it gets people talking. I prefer mine to make me smile.

Getting Out Of Your Gerbil Tube

There are many corners of downtown Calgary that can fill our soul with these momentary escapes. Calgary is full of potential, but we’re only really experiencing a fraction of it.

Research, commissioned by American Express Canada, reveals we have a strong desire to discover the places we live in and almost everyone (98%) believes exploring our home towns or cities helps us live our lives to the fullest.

But as a source of inspiration, it’s the hideaways and unexpected discoveries in our cities that provide the greatest joy. 87% of us would be happier with a daily dose of inspiration, but we are stuck in our comfort zone.

We have our daily route to work, and when we get there our routines. We’re like gerbils in tubes, never deviating from the course. But if you step outside that path just a little bit, you’ll never know what you could discover.

Play Us A Song, Piano Man

It might be someone playing a piano. On the street.

Simple, artistic street pianos have been scattered around Calgary’s downtown over the past number of years. There was one in 2012. There was one in 2013. The 2014 street piano is at the corner of 6th St and 3rd Avenue SW.

The purpose of the pianos? To combat crime. Seriously. They put up the pianos and people stop to play. And they smile. And they loiter happily. It’s an idea that has been sweeping the continent from Albany to Vancouver. And it’s in Calgary.

This one is called The Woodlands Piano by Piano Artisan Jesse Moffat, and it’s a tribute to the floods of 2013.

“As a woodland canopy offers protection to the life beneath, so too can music act as a buffer to aspects of daily life,” a note from Moffatt on the piano reads. “It is my hope that the enjoyment of music has offered some solace from the events of Alberta’s 2013 flood.”

That’s it! That’s exactly what these #InspiredBy places are meant to bring out. A little bit of passion, inspiration, and a break from routine. Public art that makes you smile.

I don’t play piano other than some random chopsticks or the theme from Laurel and Hardy. But when I saw the piano it gave me the same uplifting feeling as if I had just scratched a lottery ticket winner. I smiled. I paused, I took some photos.

When I went to my event downtown I told everyone about the random street piano, and they too smiled. I brought my wife past it after our event, and someone was playing. And people stopped and listened, they too basking in the scratch and win feeling.

What Are You #InspiredBy In Calgary?

Nearly 2/3 of the people responding to the survey say they don’t have time to discover new and interesting things in their city. So they stay local, and visit the same places. So American Express is making it easier for you to be #InspiredBy Calgary. I need you to tell me about the places you love, your Passion Points, the secret little nooks and crannies of downtown Calgary that make you smile.

There are 5 categories: food, music, fashion, reading, and wellness. I don’t necessarily want to know about specific businesses, I want to hear about little places you go for free to fulfill these desires.

Maybe it’s a quiet spot in the Plus 15 where you watch the world go by, maybe a set of stairs you run, maybe it’s the Peace Bridge at dusk. Maybe you know the best place to always catch a random food truck, find the best style.

Share them in the comments below #InspiredBy or comment on my social updates with your picks!

And then we’ll put them on a map. Your excuses will disappear, you’ll know exactly where to go, and the secrets of our city will be revealed to all.

This post was sponsored by Amex Bank of Canada.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog, however, are purely my own.

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