A massive new public art mural in northeast Calgary captures the vibrancy of the community through eye-catching designs
Calgary artist Sydonne Warren has completed her work on the show-stopping mural on the pillars supporting the 64 Avenue NE pedestrian bridge over Métis Trail and has already been overwhelmed with the volume of supportive comments on her striking artwork.
“Since I started working on the mural on site, people have been stopping or commenting on my Instagram feed. As it got closer to completion I received more and more positive feedback,” says Warren, who was hired as the lead artist and worked with emerging artist Mide Kadiri on the community engagement and design.
The roughly 7-metre piece consists of images and scenes reflective of Warren’s interpretation of the community's past, present and future all accomplished in a super-hero graphic style.
“The northeast means so much to me, and it was crucial for me to really capture the essence of the neighbourhood. My family immigrated to the area from Jamaica when I was very young, and many of my friends growing up were also new Canadians or brought other languages and food to my world. It wasn’t uncommon for us to learn phrases in Mandarin or any language of our friends or eat food that was new to us; in my experience the Northeast is really a place of interchanging and embracing many different cultures.”
Warren found out she was successful in her bid to be part of the project in May of this year. Part of the intricate process of preparation included engaging with community members and youth across the northeast to get a solid sense of how best to represent the community. While the conversations gave Warren the ideas she needed to get the project off the ground, it was one encounter with a local Blackfoot elder in particular that informed her work in a powerful way.
“(The elder) had attended a residential school and had been profoundly negatively impacted by that but he was so committed to making sure the youth in his midst were not weighed down by his experience,” reflects Warren. “He kept emphasizing that his mission was to support youth in new opportunities and to shield them from having anger in their hearts. I was particularly moved by that and wanted the mural to embody a spirit of vibrancy and hope.”
City of Calgary public art project manager, Toyin Oladele says the bridge mural project is a bold symbol of celebration of the flavour of northeast Calgary.
“We created a whole Northeast Public Art initiative to address what we found was a lack of public art in the northeast compared to other parts of the city,” explains Oladele. “And this bridge mural project really nails it in terms of capturing the essence of community and the fact that the northeast has become synonymous with people from all different cultures living together in a colourful way.”
Ward 5 Councillor Dhaliwal says the Northeast Public Art initiative is an example of the power of art in enhancing community pride and development.
“The culture of northeast Calgary is extremely unique to the City of Calgary, and we are thrilled to see art that speaks to the diversity and vibrancy of the area,” says Dhaliwal. “We wanted to see artwork that makes a statement and ignites a sense of pride in our community, and this artwork does exactly that.”
“To me, it is a full-circle experience,” adds Warren. “I had this opportunity to really reflect on where I come from and give back to my community in this really big way.”
About the Northeast Public Art initiative
The Northeast Public Art initiative aims to build amazing spaces for people to come together and provide opportunities for local artists to showcase their talent while celebrating the diversity of art forms, people and cultures represented in northeast Calgary.
Several public art projects are in the works for Calgary’s northeast communities. These include functional artworks such as a bench, a bike rack and a picnic table, mini galleries showcasing local artists’ work, a sculpture for the Genesis Centre, a mural on the pedestrian bridge crossing over Métis Trail, and several short documentary films highlighting how northeast community members were engaged to inspire the artistic designs.
For more information visit Calgary.ca/NEpublicart.
Sydonne Warren 825-561-2192