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Mountain Camp
Mountain Camp Public Art SculptureIn 2008 the Community Art Committee held a national competition for a public art piece for the Town of Banff. Thirty-six submissions received from across Canada were reviewed by a nine-member jury for their overall vision, feasibility, and suitability to the townsite. Five semi-finalists were chosen to move to the second phase of the competition which involved constructing a maquette (miniature model) and providing more detail about their concept. On April 4, 2008 the jury selected artist Susan Detwiler’s submission entitled Mountain Camp.

What does the winning piece look like?

Mountain Camp consists of five cast bronze sculptures representing a historic campsite. A pair of moccasins, a cowboy hat, and saddlebag in life-sized scale and exquisite detail lie on large boulder slabs around a bronze campfire and an old coffee-pot. The camp could have looked just like one that pioneers in the Rockies may have used. It’s easy to imagine David Thompson, John Palliser, or Bill Peyto sitting here and warming their feet by the fire, sharing stories with their guides. The work is designed to attract passers-by to sit amongst the pieces to rest and chat with each other, just as a cozy campsite would.

Where is the work installed?

Known by Banff locals as 'Rundle Parkette,' it's a small park at the corner of Banff Avenue and Elk Street at the north end of Banff’s busy downtown core (325 Banff Avenue). This is a highly visible location, serving as the unofficial “entry way” to the downtown for visitors staying in Banff Avenue hotels and for residents living in the north section of town.

Who is the artist?

Artist/educator Susan Detwiler’s experiences in the wilderness inform and define her approach to art. Living at the doorstep of a secluded woodland near Guelph, Ontario allows Susan daily interaction with the natural world from which she takes her inspiration. Her varied works explore the relationship between the domestic and the wild, and her Banff installation Mountain Camp was developed within this context. The artist writes, “A campsite is a temporary home in nature, a place of rest, warmth, and companionship. As such it is a reminder of where we came from and our relationship with the natural world. Since Banff National Park is a nature preserve, the work references both the surrounding wilderness and the town’s position within it.” The work is designed to encourage people to interact with it and with each other by sitting on the boulder slabs, enjoying the opportunity to rest and chat.

Susan developed her art practice through the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, the University of Windsor, and the University of Guelph School of Fine Art from which she earned her MFA.

Who was on the jury?

The jury included arts professionals and community members to ensure that the selected piece fit the context of the national park and the community. Members of the jury were:

1. Chris MacDonald, Town Councillor
2. Randall McKay, Manager of Planning and Development, Town of Banff
3. Matthew Walker, Sculptor and Educator, The Banff Centre (Visual Arts)
4. William Laing, Professor, University of Calgary Department of Art
5. Marybeth Laviolette, Senior Curator, Glenbow Museum, Calgary; Administrator, Canmore Museum and Geoscience Centre, Canmore; arts critic and writer.
6. Jennifer Stead, Chair of Banff Community Art Committee
7. Peter Poole, Public Member, Banff
8. Shirley Tooke, Public Member, Banff
9. Jordan Bouchard, Banff Community High School art student

Why a national competition?

Banff National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the birthplace of the national parks system, and an internationally renowned tourism destination. Banff belongs to all Canadians, and therefore all Canadian artists were welcome to submit proposals.

How was the public involved?

1. The chair of the Community Art Committee, a town councillor and three community members (one of whom was selected through a public application process) filled five seats on the nine-member jury.

2. The public was invited to view and comment on the semi-finalists’ maquettes (miniature models) at Town Hall during the local Homegrown Art Show.

How can I get involved in public art?

1. Become a member of the Community Art Committee. When member terms expire, the public is invited to fill vacancies on the committee.

2. Feel free to comment on any aspect of public art. Contact Planning and Development at 403.762.1215 or via email at