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Card project showcases citizen connections to their Calgary communities

Calgarians have a complex relationship with their city.

From love to sadness, joy to withdrawal, excitement to anomie, and maybe a few more emotions all at the same time.

Loft 112 is showcasing this rich tapestry of feeling that comes from being Calgarian in their new Cards for Community project.

On display starting Thursday are more than 250 postcards representing 117 different Calgary communities. Each tells a story about the city from the personal perspective of the person who made the card.

“We wanted people to look at Calgary, not just from the landmarks that we always associate Calgary like the Saddledome or the Calgary tower or the big blue ring, but those hidden gems,” said Lisa Murphy Lamb, director for Loft 112.

The postcards are all handmade using a variety of mixed media. Some have silk-pressed art. Others are hand-drawn or painted. And others still are almost like sculptures in four by five.

Each card also has a write-up from its creator, describing what the card means to them.

The show runs from Feb. 3 to 26.

Lisa Murphy Lamb, director of Loft 112, hangs 250 cards from 117 communities in Calgary along the walls of the gallery for an upcoming in-person art show, photographed on Tuesday, February 1, 2022. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

A leap of faith

The genesis of the show began with a question posed to University of Calgary students as part of their Global Community Challenge YYC.

“So my challenge to them was to come up with something creative that Loft 112 could do to reach out to a greater community, and to do something creative to invite them into the space,” said Lamb.

The project idea, created by Harsimronjoot Sidhu, Isis Harvey, Karina Khan, Navreet Dhillon, and Alexa Fernanda Cruz Gómez, took first place in the Winter 2021 competition.

Lamb, and manager of opportunities for Loft 112, Stacey Walyuchow, then began reaching out to members of the Calgary community.

She said that “it was a real leap of faith, just putting this invitation out to all of Calgary and saying, ‘hey, do you want to come play?'”

More than 1,000 post cards made using a Carla Klassen design were sent across the city.

“We sent them to community centers, into places of worship, to private, public, separate, charter schools, to organizations like booster clubs, recreation, and arts places.”

Fatima Elhedri’s Taradale community card at Loft 112 in Calgary on Tuesday, February 1, 2022. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Connecting Calgary

The cards the gallery has received represent the full breadth of the Calgary experience. Some cards showcase how family is the core of the artist’s community. Others, talk about history and place—from buildings long gone that live on in memory, to the importance of a beloved neighbourhood tree.

“We get to sit down for a month and be part of these postcards and get to take them in, and get to know our neighbours, and actually get to know our neighbourhoods,” said Lamb.

Rebuilding that sense of connection to the community is also a major component of the Community Cards project.

The pandemic affected the way that Loft 112 connects with artists and writers. The decision to do a physical art showing reflected the desire to have Calgarians re-connect.

“It creates a platform to come together and explore the stories that people have to tell,” Lamb said.

Richelle Keel’s Whitehorn community card at Loft 112 in Calgary on Tuesday, February 1, 2022. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Belonging, and when belongings become art supplies

Some of those stories are deeply intertwined with the past two years. Fatima Elhedri created a postcard about her home in Taradale.

“We have a love/hate relationship,” she wrote. “I’ve lived in this house for more than 25 years and all I ever wanted was to get out of it—the neighbourhood, the northeast, even the city.”

“It seems like there’s nothing more effective than a global health crisis and multiple lockdowns to shift a person’s perspective. I currently find myself incredibly grateful to have this home.”

A postcard by Bret Crowle was also about finding place and belonging in the city.

“Since having grown up in rural Alberta, being nestled between the walls of buildings and listening to the rumblings of traffic never quite soothed me, nor granted me the peace that I felt amidst the nature and prairie that raised me,” she wrote.

“That changed as soon as I moved to Parkdale. With the rushing Bow outside my front door, walking paths littered with people, and the ability to watch the goslings grow, this was the first neighborhood that took me under its wing and allowed me to feel like I had a home away from home within the city walls.”

But not every card is so positive on the city.

Richelle Keel, aka. the Richycler, took a different take on paths littered with people. They used the broken glass, debris, and even a little trash to make their sculptural card.

“I made this piece in awareness of the garbage problem,” they wrote. “This is unacceptable and we all need to care more and love our communities and planet.”

Visiting the show

The show is open Thursday and Friday evenings, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., and on Sundays from noon until 4 p.m. Select Saturday dates and times are also available.

Tickets are available online through Eventbrite. The cost is $6.32 per person and is free for anyone who submitted a card.

A small number of tickets will be available at the door, however, Loft 112 is limiting the number of people inside the gallery at any one time due to the pandemic.

And if you’re unable to make it down to the show, Loft 112 will be producing a limited run of reproductions of some of the postcards.

“We are choosing some postcards that we will consider representative of the various parts of Calgary, the four corners, but more than that, and then we will be making reproductions of those cards and making them available to represent Calgary in a unique way,” said Lamb.

Details on what postcards will be selected, and how to purchase those reproductions will be available later this month on Loft 112’s website.