Arts & Culture

Art in the Streets: Public Art and Installations in Kelowna's Cultural District

A large white abstract sculpture with flowing shapes, set against a deep blue sky in Kelowna.


Kelowna's Cultural District, a hub that teems with creativity, serves as a canvas where art transcends gallery walls and merges into daily life. Here, public art installations not only decorate but narrate, weaving stories and heritage into the urban landscape.

Overview of Public Art in Kelowna

Kelowna's dedication to enriching its public spaces with art is evident in its diverse collection of over 70 public artworks. The City's Public Art Program, with an annual budget of $130,000, spearheads this initiative, commissioning new works and supporting community art projects. The Community Art Grant Program, a significant aspect of this endeavour, nurtures collaborations between artists and the community, fostering a sense of pride and reflecting Kelowna's rich cultural tapestry.

Iconic Installations in the Cultural District

Among the city’s most iconic pieces, the Spirit of Sail stands tall. Created by the renowned local sculptor Robert Dow Reid in 1978, this 12-metre high fiberglass sculpture, commonly referred to as The Sails, has become a symbol of Kelowna. The artist's inspiration stems from his maritime experiences and Scottish heritage, making the sculpture a meaningful landmark.

Another masterpiece, the Bear sculpture in Stuart Park, is a tribute to Kelowna’s name, which translates from the Syilx First Nation language as “grizzly bear”. Brower Hatcher's 2010 steel creation encapsulates the city’s history within its grizzly bear frame, including references to Kelowna's orchards, Kettle Valley, and forest fires, capturing the essence of the region’s evolution.

Street Art and Murals

Kelowna’s street art scene offers a kaleidoscope of colours and expressions. Artworks found in unexpected corners, like the murals at Bankhead Park and the dynamic wall at Ben Lee Park, reflect the city's artistic pulse. Bernard Avenue boasts captivating pieces by Scott Tobin, while the largest mural, celebrating Kelowna's history with depictions of the Ogopogo and Kelowna Rockets, adorns the Fripp Warehouse. Notably, an alley on St. Paul Street features a striking piece by Lars A. W., and Hotel Zed’s alleyway complements its quirky aesthetics with vibrant art.

Celestial Bodies: A Case Study

The Celestial Bodies urban projection at the Rotary Centre for the Arts is a notable example of Kelowna's innovative approach to public art. This multimedia project, a collaboration between the Arts Council of Central Okanagan and UBC Okanagan, showcases animated stories from diverse cultures, including the Haudenosaunee Nation, China, Greece, and Africa. It represents Kelowna's commitment to multiculturalism and the power of art in urban spaces.

The Role of Public Art in Community Engagement

Public art in Kelowna is more than an aesthetic enhancement; it's a conversation starter, a community binder, and a reflection of the city's evolving identity. These installations offer residents and visitors alike a chance to engage with art in their everyday surroundings, fostering a deeper connection with the city's culture and history.


Kelowna’s Cultural District, adorned with an array of public art, is an example of the city's commitment to weaving art into the fabric of urban life. From monumental sculptures to street murals, each piece tells a story, inviting exploration and reflection. As these artworks continue to shape the city's landscape, they offer a constant reminder of the rich cultural heritage and creative spirit that define Kelowna.