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$1M job to install Surrey’s UrbanScreen to show digital art on library building wall

The award-winning screen was decommissioned at Chuck Bailey rec centre in 2022
Example of UrbanScreen projection on the east wall of Surrey City Centre Library. This rendering uses a still from Nicolas Sassoon’s “Liquid Landscapes” series at UrbanScreen in 2018. “The artwork is part of Surrey Art Gallery’s permanent collection and is being used for illustrative purposes only,” notes a report to city council. (Photo:

Work to install Surrey’s digital-art projection system at a new downtown site will cost just over $1 million, according to a report before the city council on Monday (Feb. 26).

Plans are to give new life to the UrbanScreen at Surrey Civic Plaza, on the east wall of the City Centre library building, mostly with federal funding.

The projection system was decommissioned at Chuck Bailey Recreation Centre nearly two years ago, due to expansion plans at the rec facility on 107A Avenue.

In a report to council this week, Surrey’s general manager of Parks Recreation & Culture recommends the city enter into a contract of $1,050,000 with ShowTech AVL for the supply, delivery and installation of UrbanScreen in Surrey Civic Plaza.

“We are planning for installation and testing over the next few months (and) go live late summer, early fall,” Laurie Cavan, author of the report, told the Now-Leader. “More detailed timelines will be confirmed in the coming weeks.”

The work involves “a large-scale projection venue with interactivity supporting, for example, capacity for sensory tracking and electronic surfaces, along with motion activated and/or directed sound speakers,” the report notes, along with “existing plaza poles to support infrastructure with projection” on the library wall.

Project funding comes from a $750,000 grant from PacifiCan Canada Community Revitalization Fund, with the remainder from the city’s Public Art Reserve.

• RELATED: New home found for digital art of Surrey’s UrbanScreen, unplugged in Whalley.

Last October, word of UrbanScreen’s move was noted in a federal government news release detailing PacifiCan funding for three public-space projects in Surrey. Surrey Art Gallery Association will get $750,000 to “revitalize Surrey’s Civic Plaza using art displayed through UrbanScreen,” the release noted.

After 12 years of operation, UrbanScreen stopped showcasing digital art at Chuck Bailey rec centre in May 2022. At the time, gallery operators hinted that the digital projection system might one day move to another site in Surrey, if and when grant funding was secured.

A new-look UrbanScreen could be connected to Surrey’s plans for an interactive art museum, pitched in 2018 as a “cultural catalyst” for the downtown core. In December 2021 the city sent out a request for expressions of interest (RFEOI) noting a budget of $60 million and plan to have the museum opened by 2025.

Once billed as “Canada’s largest art-dedicated outdoor screen,” UrbanScreen was the subject of a 2020 book called Art After Dark, marking its 10th anniversary.

In its decade-plus of operation, “many other institutions have been inspired by UrbanScreen’s programming model: non-commercial, site-specific, artist-led media visible to a mass audience,” Rhys Edwards, assistant curator, noted in Surrey Art Gallery’s guide to winter 2022 programs.

On a 30-metre-wide “screen” obscured by some doors and windows at Chuck Bailey, UrbanScreen used projectors to illuminate the rec centre’s wall with imagery generated by computers and other technologies, including a virtual piano, SkyTrain, tidal level readers, gaming engines and unmanned aerial video copters.

In 2017, programmers of UrbanScreen received an award for outstanding achievement from the Canadian Museums Association (CMA), in the New Media category.

Tom Zillich

About the Author: Tom Zillich

I cover entertainment, sports and news stories for the Surrey Now-Leader, where I've worked for more than half of my 30-plus years in the newspaper business.
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