Black Lives Matter movements are still impacting Calgary and this time, people will see it 25 feet tall and 125 feet wide.
The Black Lives Matter Murals Project, an initiative of Pink Flamingo, artist Katie Green and filmmaker Suitakii Black, aspires to promote equality and change.
Pink Flamingo’s Allison Dunne said it’s important to create a mural that was engaging for the community.
“We just wanted to make sure that the people that could be most reflected in the mural are the ones actually seeing and engaging with the mural,” Dunne said.
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A representative artist
To adhere to the advocacy, artists of racialized communities are invited to submit their art proposals between July 22 and August 17. The mural is to be completed by September. It’s the first of four projects that will be finished by summer 2021.
The selected artist will be given complete freedom in expressing their art. Aside from a fair fee, Pink Flamingo and their partners will supply the materials, equipment and manpower the artist needs.
The project comes out of Calgary’s public consultation on systemic racism in the city. When it concluded, Coun. Evan Woolley asked that the city set aside $120,000 from the city’s $4.7 million public art reserve for four Black Lives Matter murals.
Those murals would “reflect and tell stories and give expressions about everything that we see taking place,” Woolley said in the June meeting.
“This is a near term initiative that will go a long way in us expressing the kind of city that we are hoping to build through the longer term work of the (previous) notice of motion.”
From one art to another
The mural will be painted in 1 Street and 7 Avenue SE, just across Centre Street Station. The location was chosen so that thousands of Calgarians will see and reflect on it everyday.
It will take over the iconic Giving Wings to the Dream by Doug Driediger created a quarter-century ago. Pink Flamingo has shown Driediger their vision for the project and has been in two meetings with him.
“Depending on how involved he wants to be, we are really, really open to having his expertise be part of this project,” said Dunne.
Calgary Arts Development and Beltline Urban Murals Project are also supporting the project.
Dunne is hoping that the first one will create a positive impact on the next three projects in aspects of managing funds, collaborating with artists and making corrections.
Artist offered to modify the current CUPS mural
Driediger said, however, that in two calls he had with the group he expressed concern about the project location.
“I expressed my concerns that: 1) the existing mural’s message, over its lifetime, speaks about much broader themes than those connected to CUPS, encompassing the full spectrum of human concern (including empowerment for all),” Driediger wrote in an email to LiveWire Calgary.
“It has become iconic for Calgary, and replacing it may not engender sympathy or enthusiasm for the BLM initiative (which is very important!), and 2) aren’t 2 murals in the downtown better than one? There is no lack of walls.
“The precedent of painting over a public artwork that is loved by so many (and Calgary has a recent history of controversy regarding public artworks) is sets a disturbing precedent.”
Driediger said that in his last email to the Pink Flamingo group, he offered to modify or update the CUPS mural to better represent a range of ethnicities.
“I have thought that being Calgary’s first downtown mural, it’d be good to celebrate it with an anniversary: make it officially ‘Calgary’s’ mural’, and recognize the place it has as a ground-breaking art statement in the downtown core,” Driediger wrote.
He said his last email didn’t receive a response from Pink Flamingo organizers.
A tribute from the force
While the BLM murals are in the works, one in support of Indigenous women has been unveiled at Calgary Police Headquarters.
Woman’s Count aims to encourage more Indigenous women to participate in political matters, such as running as a candidate for office.
“Indigenous women hold a special place in history, as well as in our society. We will certainly need to hear their wise voices,” said Calgary police Chief Constable Mark Neufeld.
The collaborative effort between the Calgary Police Service (CPS) and Urban Society for Aboriginal Youth (USAY) is inspired by winter count, a record of tribal events.
It’s part of ongoing work to find ways to reflect Indigenous communities and honour the city’s deeply rooted history and traditions.
The art piece is the latest addition in incorporating Indigenous heritage at the CPS.