Beakerhead 2016

In Calgary, there is a yearly event called “Beakerhead” which they proclaim is “A Smash Up of Art, Science, & Engineering”. I was only able to go for a few hours during the day and, even without the lights on the impressive displays lit up, it was really cool.

I went while my kids were at school but next year I plan on taking them on a tour of the displays. Since I only had one day free, my friend and I focused on seeing the Chain Reaction pieces. We managed to see a few, in between stops to shop in the area and a lunch break, and they were very impressive. All of the people at the displays were very willing to chat and elaborate on their projects. It’s nice to meet friendly and passionate people!!

We saw maybe 1/64th of the festival and the lighting was too sunny for great photographs, but here are some highlights of the festival, in picture form….

1. Scaffold Art

The scaffold Pegasus was very impressive, and would be more so at night! I took a quick moment to pose in front of this impressive piece of art….


The Pegasus scaffold art.


The sign declared,

Scaffolders…..envision & create complicated structures from scratch….Alberta is home to top talent.

They chose the winner from 10 entries. It was very well-done and I think it would transform in to an impressive stop during the evening.

2. Social Circuit Bench

This bench will be a permanent fixture in Kensington. It will stay in front of my favourite Calgary bookstore, Pages.

Stephanie on the Social Circuit Bench

Stephanie on the Social Circuit Bench

Although it looks cool before you even sit down, it is even more than that once you interact with the piece. You can spin fairly fast on it if you have another person sharing the experience (thanks, Stephanie!) and, while you spin, you can read a lyric in the little window below you. It is a lot of fun!! I wonder if they change up the words every once in awhile? If anyone visits in a few weeks and it has changed, comment below!

Since we were right beside Pages, I thought I would browse the sales racks outside, and found a Jack Kerouac biography to buy. (Jack Kerouac was my first literary crush and made me fall in love with words all over again).  When I went inside to buy the book, I noticed an Archie comic reboot. The guy who rang me in (I ADORE the staff there) informed me that it is an ACAD grad that did some of the artwork in it. So impressive! I will have to go back and buy it soon, since I devoured Archie comics in my tween years. The cover is impressive in itself:



After a bit more shopping at New Age and at Sunnyside Art Supplies  we moved on to visit the Tentacles art installation in Inglewood.

3.  Tentacles 

This was the installation I was the most excited to see. Octopus tentacles freak me out, so there was something oddly exciting about seeing fake ones coming out of a building. I know that makes no sense….maybe it was comforting to think of an octopus so trapped that only it’s tentacles could escape? It also reminded me of a scene from my favourite childhood book, Alice in Wonderland. The scene where Alice gets caught in the house and she is peering out of an upstairs window with only her legs and arms free…..remember that?



This is the Calgary premiere of UK artists Filthy Luker and Pedro Estrellas. If you went to Beakerhead, you may have noticed “Googly Eyes in Trees” and the “Rubbish Monster” in Kensington, which were also art pieces by these artists.



4. Saturnian

A blow-up version of a humpback-narwhal hybrid is what was to greet us as we walked over to the other space. Although the sign said you could go inside to explore sounds, or even meditate, it was too hot for us to want to venture in….and it was full of toddlers playing, so we thought we would let them be.


Downtown as the fitting backdrop to Saturnian

Downtown as the fitting backdrop to Saturnian

Saturnian also took the form of a blown glass sculpture that was really pretty, and was in the same space as disaster relief projects such as Shelter Box and Survival Capsule. Take time to check them out and revel in the amazing progress we have made in these areas. Human ingenuity gives me hope and faith for humans thriving in the future. I also liked the environmentally-friendly tips at the booth nearby. Hope and progress abounded in this area of the festival.

5.  Antyx and Blazin Lily Gals

On our way to the BASS Ship, we stopped to take in the photographs presented by Antyx and the metal flower sculptures of Blazin Lily Gals.

Antyx “is a community arts company that uses the arts and community development processes to create opportunities for youth to become more engaged in their community and experience increased community connection”  according to their website. At Beakerhead, they showcased black-and-white portrait photography by ten to fourteen year old kids, of people they had randomly approached. The photos were great and it was neat to see the diversity of Calgary showcased.

Next we saw the sandbox that was also home to an art sculpture! It was also reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland. Obviously set up to be an incredible light show of fire and lighting at night, it was still neat to see during the day.


Blazin Lily Gals

6. BASS Ship

Lastly, we took in the BASS Ship, where observers get to be participants if they wish, and make music to be “sent in to space and the atmosphere”. We stood at a sound booth and used a touch screen to alter sounds, which changed every time they found new volunteers. So, basically, you could line up again and again and have a new experience every time.

The BASS Ship creating beats

The BASS Ship creating beats

It was a blast, although I had trouble really hearing my contribution….I wish there was some way to connect headphones in a sanitary way so I could get “my DJ on” properly.


Although we saw a tiny fraction of the festival on a blazing hot afternoon, it was extremely fun and I can’t wait to take it in properly next year! Stephanie will be up for it, I am sure.

Did you go to the festival? What did you think? What should I make sure to check out, if it is there again next year?

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