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Indigenous art banners roll out at Calgary’s municipal building in part of new pilot program

Three new banners illuminate Calgary’s history, addressing the shameful wrongs of the past and hope to create a path to further reconciliation in the future.

The art installation was announced this week. It marks the first time an Indigenous artist’s work will be exhibited in the city’s municipal building.

The City of Calgary commissioned Kalum Teke Dan, local self-taught Blackfoot artist, to create the three banners that will be hung in the building’s atrium in July.

The banners that will be on three pillars in the City of Calgary municipal building atrium. SCREENSHOT CITY PRESENTATION

The municipal building is a place Calgarians go to do business, where the city council meets and where significant community commemorations and events take place, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said.

“It’s really important I think for us to have this Indigenous art here in this place,” Nenshi said.

A $50,000 budget has been set for the project – including artist fees, printing and installation.

Many Native artists struggled to get work for many years. In the last seven years, there has been an increase in demand, Teke Dan said.

“People are more involved or interested in our culture and they’re more understanding, because I think they they’re more educated on what happened to us and what went on,” he said.

“That’s kind of the big thing that’s going on in the world right now. They kind of woke up because of the children being found.”

More than 3,000 children died while attending residential schools in the country.

“That’s our history, but it doesn’t have to be our future,” Nenshi said in a City of Calgary video regarding the new art installation.

“Recognizing our history and learning from it, the truth part of truth and reconciliation, is critical for us to be able to move on as a community and as a nation.”

Reconciliation through art

Teke Dan’s banners are the first to be featured during the pilot year of the City of Calgary’s Indigenous Placekeeping Program, as part of the City’s Indigenous initiatives in public art.

The three banners each have their own focus – past, present and future.

The banner representing Teke Dan’s vision of the future portrays a hope for reconciliation and developing a sense of pride.

“Even people that aren’t Aboriginal, I get coming up to me saying your murals make me feel so proud. And they’re not even Aboriginal,” Teke Dan said.

“Then people that are Aboriginal cry are telling me that they’ve either had a hard time in their life and to see this up really empowers them. Or, they feel so much pride being Aboriginal because of the murals that I’ve done and that hits home because that’s the goal. I want everyone to feel proud.”

Teke Dan’s public mural, beside the intersection of 17 Ave SW and 12 Street SW, that led to the City of Calgary commissioning the municipal building’s banners. KIRSTEN PHILLIPS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

The program was created to allow Indigenous artists to showcase their work in the atrium of the municipal building. It welcomes all kinds of art forms.

“We have to make room for more Indigenous voices, and more Indigenous culture and a great way to do that is through art,” Nenshi said.

“Certainly our public art folks have been improving opportunities for Indigenous artists to consult on, participate in, and influence public art across the city and we’re going to have more of those.”

Teke Dan was also recently commissioned by the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Nursing, for a second time, to create indigenous art to be featured in student spaces.