News / Calgary

Serpent breathes life – and fire – into Beakerhead

Art, science and engineering collide at annual Calgary festival

The &quotSerpent Mother" is the largest flame-emitting artistic sculpture in the world.

Jennifer Friesen / For Metro

The "Serpent Mother" is the largest flame-emitting artistic sculpture in the world.

Children and adults alike screamed as flames and a plume of black smoke erupted from a giant metallic serpent.

Armed with 40 pillars of fire and stretching 168 feet, the “Serpent Mother” installation was wrapped around an egg that sent fire streaming toward the sky above Fort Calgary.

The installation, created by San Francisco’s Flaming Lotus Girls, was unveiled on Wednesday to mark the beginning of the fifth annual Beakerhead – Calgary’s home-grown festival blending art, science and engineering.

“Beakerhead is all about art and creativity and spectacle,” said Mary Anne Moser, co-founder and CEO of Beakerhead.

“Underneath all this fun, we are very serious about why we’re doing this…We’ve all, in school, been streamed into either math and science or art and creativity, and it doesn’t serve us … it doesn’t serve us as a community to have these silos: the art world and the engineering sector. And it doesn’t serve us economically, because its where those two sectors intersect that innovation lives.”

This year’s event was set up as a life-size game of Snakes and Ladders. Offering a chart and 14 installations to track through the city, organizers planned for each site to chronicle the ups and downs of human ingenuity.

Jay Ingram, co-founder of Beakerhead, said they aren’t looking to teach people anything – rather, they’re looking to delight and inspire.

“I’ve been involved in trying to make science a little more popular all my life,” said Ingram.

“This is actually the best way. It’s interactive. You get to experience things, you get to do things, you get to sit on teeter totters, you get to play with things – and that’s just so much better than having somebody telling you what you should know.”

Running from Wednesday to Sunday, Beakerhead’s 14 installations will be joined by many workshops and events. For more information, go to

“I mean, how can you resist something that looks like a giant fire-breathing dragon?” laughed Ingram.

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