Ryan Pearse student at the Alberta College of Art and Design

You’re one of five Alberta College of Art and Design students who created new work for the Nature Centre at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary. What did you do?

I did the migration panel.

What was the goal of the project?

It was a combined effort for the City of Calgary and ACAD…. Our goal was to educate the people who come to Inglewood Bird Sanctuary on different areas of the park itself and then I think those other panels were in there for about 20 years so they wanted to update the look and make it more fresh and pleasing to look at.

The artwork shows birds wildlife and nature found in city parks. What did you focus on for your panel?

My panel was all based on migration routes of birds so it’s which birds stay in the park at different times of the year and I related it back to flight and travel and trying to layer in information about feeding habits and mating habits and stuff like that. The primary goal is which birds stay there year-round which ones stay there for the summer and which ones pass through in the winter.

So someone could look at the panel in the winter and get an idea of what they might see in the sanctuary at that time of year?

Exactly and it’s kind of which birds are favourites for birdwatchers and which birds are most prominent in the park with some rare birds as well. It’s kind of a metaphor for what you would get if you were in the park which is the fun part of it I think.

Are you a parks user yourself?

You know I haven’t been for the last couple years just because of school — it’s hard to do much our workload is pretty heavy so during the school year not much. It was kind of depressing when the flood hit because I wanted to go out there and do some painting in the park because it’s such a nice park but I guess it’s not going to be open for another couple months. Once it is open I plan to go out there and do some plein air painting though.

The sanctuary is closed but the Nature Centre where the artwork is located is still open right?

The centre is open but the actual sanctuary is closed right now. It’s so beautiful when it’s open so I’m really excited for them to open it up again…. We went through a whole tour there just to get ideas for the project and it was so amazing in there. I’m kind of hoping it gets back to that nice looking park that it was before.

Do you think this project gives people a different perspective on what exists in city parks?

Absolutely. All five of the panels have so many different areas that they offer people. You have this information that’s layered and layered and layered into these panels but they’re also just really beautiful to look at and you really get an appreciation for it. All the scenery is referenced from the actual park and city…. You could probably look at them for hours and just keep finding new things that I think excite people who are both new or have been to the park quite a few times. They’re a lot of fun but past that fun level there’s also a lot of information you could get.

What type of artwork do you specialize in and what do you hope to do when you graduate this year?

I move back and forth quite a bit but my favourite thing to do is oil painting and traditional painting figure work novel covers but I really like information illustration too which is what this is — providing information with a fun picture that people will enjoy. My panel is hand-drawn and then I put it into Illustrator and did all the colouring and all the shapes in Illustrator.

Did this partnership with the city help you as students?

We all learned a ton and I think the level of work we created it was a lot higher because of the partnership. They came in and gave us some critiques and encouraged us which way to go. This was the City of Calgary — they were super friendly and super supportive. I think we got to work with them as clients in a very professional manner and once they selected the works we got a chance to improve on them even more. We got to see what it’s like to take a piece further than anything we’d done before. I think some of the best work of all five of the students came out of this project.

How did they choose the five students?

It was kind of like a five-week project and the City of Calgary gave us general guidelines…. Originally there was only supposed to be three panels so they split our class up into three groups and we each got our theme and worked on it. They came back three weeks later and looked at it and told us what was working and what we should push forward with so we did that then they came in and selected… five of the works they really liked and gave one more critique on where to go with those final projects. So we worked on them again and then submitted the finals. It was a competitive thing… and there was originally supposed to be three panels for 25 students so the five of us that went were the ones selected out of those 25.