Calgary streetscapes given a BUMP via local art partnerships
You may have noticed a transformation in several of Calgary’s commercial streets over the past four years. Patios protected by colourful barriers now line some of our trendiest streetscapes. Within these barriers is a story of local art, collaboration, accessibility and safety.
“At the outset of the seasonal patio program in 2020, it began as something more utilitarian – a response to the pandemic and an effort to support small businesses” explains Andrew Sedor, the Mobility Initiatives Lead at The City of Calgary. “Calgarians may remember these same streetscapes once covered with orange cones and barricades, now boasting art covered barriers, protective planters and bike / e-scooter parking platforms”.
The evolution of these spaces is thanks to The City of Calgary’s partnership with the Beltline Urban Mural Project (BUMP) and the Alberta University of the Arts (AUArts).
Dubbed the “Road Works program,” 30 concrete jersey barriers were originally painted in 2021, 50 in 2022 and 60 in 2023. The barriers serve a protective function for the patios and boardwalks, as well as being pieces of public art. As these barriers are a standard piece of equipment, it allows The City to effectively move them to other locations and beautify areas all over Calgary. See a video of the BUMP Barriers being panted.
Anna MacLaren, Murals Manager at BUMP, says the Road Works program offers emerging and early-career artists an introduction to public art and muralism in a supportive environment. “In 2023, we engaged 20 artists, many of whom were making their first foray into public art, to paint a total of 60 barriers. Beyond supporting local emerging artists, our barriers improve the public realm by adding colour, play and safety to Calgary’s streetscapes,” she says.
And as the program continues to realize its potential, it has also witnessed the inclusion of new types of barriers. This year, The City added 125 lower profile barriers to patios across the city to help improve safety by creating a shell around the patios and boardwalks.
To beautify these barriers, The City reached out to the AUArts. “AUArts was awesome, and we were able to provide an experience to a number of students and alumni who designed vinyl wraps for these low-profile barriers, providing both the safety benefits we see in other areas with the regular jersey barriers,” says Sedor.
“This has offered some of AUArts’ newly graduated alumni significant profile of their talents, and has also been a paid work experience,” says Jamie Leong-Huxley, Vice President Advancement with AUArts. “The patios are now a lively and safe environment for all to enjoy,” she adds.
Priya Ramesh, Marketing & Communications Manager at BUMP, agrees the program has become a unique entry point into the world of public art by artists who are making the pivot into this space for the first time. “Especially for local artists, experimenting with transient, functional structures that are seen outside in the summer in high impact areas, is an interesting way to interact with their own city.”
In 2022 and 2023, both the BUMP and AUArts projects were partially funded by the PrairiesCan Canada Community Revitalization Fund.
The BUMP Festival is currently taking place around Calgary, be sure to check out all the wonderful murals through to August 28. More info at https://yycbump.ca/festival/