Pop-up public art exhibit in downtown park encourages reflection and thoughtful conversations on historical racism
The City-owned park and parkade located at 115 4 Ave. S.W. are being renamed as part of The City of Calgary’s anti-racism efforts to become a more inclusive city.
Before the renaming takes place, the pop-up public art exhibit A park without a name is being displayed in the park from Oct. 25-28, 2022. Created by artist Annie Wong following her Chinatown artist residency, the contemporary artwork is a series of seven banners that feature quotes in English and Traditional Chinese. The quotes were heard by the artist while in conversation with members of Calgary’s Chinatown community.
“The voices represented by the banners speak courageously and collectively against the erasure of Chinatown’s history,” says Wong.
The art gives voice to Chinese people and invites Calgarians to consider whose voices and history are valued when we name places and spaces. The banners also encourage people to reflect and engage in thoughtful conversations on historical racism against Chinese people in Calgary.
“The artist is raising the flag, calling out racism and asking people to confront the truth,” says local arts advocate and Tomorrow’s Chinatown advisory group member 馬鳳齡 Fung Ling Feimo. “Through prompting words on banners, the artwork asks us to stare at racism and not look away while making space for those who are often not given the opportunity to speak. In this way, the banners transform the park into a symbolic space for the Chinese community to heal."
While seeing direct statements about racism can be uncomfortable, the banners are an opportunity to lean into the discomfort and reflect on the systems and beliefs that allow racism to flourish.
“It’s important that we have these conversations so that we understand the history of racism is not something to be relegated into the past, but to understand that it exists in a continuum that affects and lives on in the fabric of our everyday lives,” adds Wong.
While the banners are on display for four days, it is hoped the conversations on racism they spark among Calgarians continue long past this week.
“Public art adds interest and beauty to a community. Sometimes, it also becomes a creative way to bring awareness to important social issues such as racism,” says Jennifer Thompson, Manager of Arts & Culture at The City of Calgary. “When pursuing racial justice, we need to give artists a safe space to tell their stories and respectfully listen without judgment. Oppression thrives in silence.”
Learn more about the artwork and the artist’s context behind each banner at calgary.ca/aparkwithoutaname
About the renaming
Formerly known as James Short Park and Parkade, renaming this site on the boundary of Chinatown addresses the historic harm caused by racial discrimination against Chinese Calgarians. James Short was a prominent Calgarian in the late 1800s and early 1900s whose anti-Chinese views contributed to this racial injustice.
A recommendation on the new name that was chosen through community engagement carried out over the past year will be presented to Council on Nov. 1, 2022.