Steel Wave: A Full Circle Moment

This blog post originally appeared in the August 2019 Hillhurst Sunnyside Voice, by Patti Dawkins

“Steel Wave before restoration”. Photo by Patti Dawkins

“Steel Wave before restoration”. Photo by Patti Dawkins

Do you remember a faded, rusty and rather tired looking sculpture outside the CBC building facing Memorial Drive for many years? I am pleased to inform you that it has been donated by the CBC to the Kiyooka Ohe Arts Centre (KOAC) in Springbank.

The name of the sculpture is “Steel Wave” by former artist Roy Leadbeater (1928-2017). The CBC commissioned it in 1978 for $250,000. "It is an outstanding sculpture. In terms of Alberta sculptures, it is one of the better pieces. The imagery is about wings, and abstract wings imply freedom," Harry Kiyooka told the CBC’s Homestretch.

Leadbeater came to be an artist late in life. While living in Calgary in the 1960’s he enrolled in art classes with Katie Ohe at the Calgary Allied Arts Centre (Coste House). He worked full time to subsidize his art practice: for Shell Oil in Calgary and then EPCOR in Edmonton. Dominion Bridge Company in Ramsey liked his work so much they offered him access to a workshop space after hours. In Edmonton he ran his own foundry with eleven employees and produced sculptural commissions.

The KOAC is a not-for-profit charity organization founded by artists and educators Harry Kiyooka and Katie Ohe. According to their website, KOAC is “dedicated to the preservation of its surrounding environment, enriching Canadian art culture and providing community programming”. The Springbank property has been their home since 1978. The house, two studios and a future pavilion will be used for the three R’s: Retreat, Research and Residence. There is currently a sculpture park on the property with over 100 sculptures. Kiyooka taught at U of C 1961-1988 and Ohe taught at AUArts (formerly the Alberta College of Art and Design ACAD) from 1970-2016.

“Steel Wave Today”. Photo by Patti Dawkins

“Steel Wave Today”. Photo by Patti Dawkins

This year Ohe will receive the highest honour the province can bestow on a citizen, The Alberta Order of Excellence (AOE).You may be familiar with some of her public art, “The Zipper” (1975) a kinetic sculpture in the University of Calgary Sciences Building, “Cracked Pot Foundations” a stone fountain in Prince’s Island, and “Janet’s Crown”, a kinetic sculpture that sits on the grass outside of the Alberta University of the Arts (AUArts) at the top of the hill above Hillhurst School. 

After long negotiations between the CBC and KOAC, Leadbeater’s two-ton “Steel Wave” was donated and transported to KOAC for restoration. Local artist Alex Caldwell meticulously restored the sculpture, removing all rust spots, making necessary repairs and applying a fresh bright coat of orange paint that will last for decades. The sculpture was unveiled on June 22, 2019 at KOAC’s annual open house with over 100 people in attendance, including CBC Calgary’s Doug Dirks. Attendees enjoyed tours of Kiyooka and Ohe’s studios, home, library, fantastic art collection and sculpture garden.

As a former student of Ohe, Leadbeater’s sculpture now graces the property and begins a new life in the KOAC sculpture garden, a very appropriate full circle moment.

For more information about KOAC please visit the website

Written by Patti Dawkins, Community Member

Further Reading & Sources:

  1.    CBC News September 2018 David Bell

  2.    Kiyooka Ohe Arts Centre

  3.    Avenue Magazine September 2014