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Oil Powers a new 'STEAM' project


Artist Sandra Sawatzky's The Black Gold Tapestry now on display at the Glenbow Museum might be one of the most significant modern STEAM projects exhibited in Calgary. It is an impressive work of art that has a major element of science, technology, engineering, art and math. In addition to geology and paleontology, the tapestry is a major study in history.

Although I was in awe from a distance at the size and scale of this art object, I immediately stepped forward for a much closer look. That first look is an embroidered display of what the earth looked like during the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Now I feel compelled to look closely at all the details throughout the 67 metres of the storyboard about oil and its impact on our history and our future. I must have circled the eight panels five or six times. Even as I am writing this, I am thinking of going back for yet another visit.

Sandra Sawatzky spent nine years researching, planning, sketching and stitching her version of the thousand-year-old Bayeux Tapestry, this time telling the story of oil.

I didn't count them all, but the exhibit booklet tells me that there are 434 dinosaurs in this tapestry. Sawatsky shows us that the study of dinosaurs and the study of geology were interwoven in the early days of geoscience and paleontology. Additionally, there are many human figures and images based on architecture in the tapestry.

Teachers probably intuitively construct a storyboard in their head while they're formulating a lesson plan. Teachers preparing online lessons create ‘reusable learning objects’ and success suggests the use of detailed storyboards. Sawatzky takes the skills she developed through a career in television production and has created an extremely elaborate storyboard. She presented it as the Black Gold Tapestry. I was extremely impressed with this.

It is on show now until May 2018 at Calgary's Glenbow Museum, before moving off on a major tour of Europe. Don’t miss your opportunity to see it.

Links of interest:
          Black Gold Tapestry
          Glenbow Museum
You can also find me on

Oil Powers a new 'STEAM' project

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