Bringing art and colour to public land patios

Calgary's patios are open for business and looking a bit more colourful this season. Local artists are using concrete safety barriers as their canvas, creating works of street art that are giving restaurants and cafes with patio extensions an exciting and eye-catching look.

The City is working with the Beltline Urban Murals Project (BUMP) and Business Improvement Areas to beautify the temporary patio spaces on public land that restaurants, cafes and pubs are filling with tables and chairs. The temporary patio bump outs help keep staff and patrons safe by allowing more space for physical distancing. And now, thanks to the street art project, the plain concrete barriers that are adding some extra protection for pedestrians and patrons from traffic are sporting some artist flair.

Using Calgary artists was a must, says Julia Schreiber, Murals Director for BUMP. “We wanted to support local artists who have been pretty hard hit by the pandemic and also provide businesses who are adapting the patios this way with a bit more eye-catching scenery rather than a blank piece of concrete,” Schreiber said. The project is also featuring work from an 18-year-old artist, the youngest BUMP has included, says Schreiber. “The artists are super enthusiastic. It’s really been cool to see how they’ve developed different concepts for each barrier that all tie together and they can have a story throughout the city.”

Calgary artists and local tattoo studio owners Brieanne Mikuska and Lola Saik are among the nine artists painting 30 barriers. “It’s been such a tough and dismal year; we wanted to put some colour and fun back into the city,” said Saik. “And also being able to make it prettier,” said Mikuska. “The circumstances are there. We need barriers, we need outdoor patios but it’s like getting to decorate the city with your own little touch and make everyone happy, too.”

The artists say this project is close to their hearts because it supports local business owners. “Both of us have worked in restaurants - being artists our whole lives - so being able now to have our own studio, our own tattoo shop, it is important to understand it’s not just a place you work for,” said Mikuska. “It’s like mom and pop restaurants have it the hardest right now. We know so many first-hand, so many people intimately well, that have their restaurants that struggle really hard. Just being able to try to contribute in any way with our skills is really important to us. And it helps us give back to the restaurants and businesses that need that interaction.”

Besides being visually interesting, the murals decorating the concrete barriers tell a story of our city’s time living in a global pandemic, the artists say. “Each one has a different thematic approach: community growth, coming together, sunny, happy, positive vibes. We wanted to say how COVID has brought us all back together as a community and made us be more in touch with ourselves and nature rather than just the monotony of everyday life and getting stuck in routine. At least that’s a positive thing that’s come from the global pandemic,” said Mikuska. “And give some joy – think about how many dogs can take a portrait with that small barrier mural!”

Saik agrees: “Getting to do this with the support from The City is so great. You get out what you put in. Being able to show up to kind of decorate the city in a hard time helps us be a better business, too.”

Expedited 2021 patio application process

The City is continuing to accept applications for outdoor cafes and patios for the 2021 season, and prioritizing those applications.

Fees for a development permit, license of occupation and temporary permission are being waived until Dec. 31, 2021. For those that received approval last year, there is an opportunity to follow a reduced process with quicker approvals if they reference last year’s information. Development permit applications are reviewed by a senior planning technician and the plans circulated to internal and external stakeholders. A notice board will be displayed on the property and decisions are advertised. Release occurs at the end of a three-week appeal period.

To apply, call 403-268-5311 or visit and use our live chat function. Our team will help you determine if you need a development permit or a temporary permission. Learn more at