Indigenous superhero experience coming to Telus Spark next year

Sacred Defenders of the Universe to showcase Blackfoot and other Indigenous superheroes, courtesy federal funding

Telus Spark on Wednesday, March 9, 2022. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

While the multi-plex might let you watch superheroes on the big screen, Telus Spark Science Centre is building an interactive experience to truly be beside them.

The Sacred Defenders of the Universe, an Indigenous-created superhero series, is coming to the centre’s digital immersion gallery.

The experience was announced as part of a $1.3 million investment into Alberta’s Indigenous tourism sector by the federal government. The science centre is receiving $500,000 of that investment to develop and launch the experience.

“We’re incredibly grateful for the support of the federal government, and obviously, the ability to bring such a great story to life,” said Rod Tate, Chief Experience Officer at the Telus Science Centre.

Sacred Defenders of the Universe is a creation of Jack Bear Pictures, which is co-creating the digital animated series in conjunction with Bright Light Pictures.

Experience coming in Q1, 2023

The experience will be similar to the interactive Van Gogh exhibits that have toured Calgary, and the centre’s current Quantum Sandbox exhibit.

“It’s got a little bit of a development process, as it’s a highly technical show that needs to be built,” said Tate.

The science centre converted one of their 6,000 square-foot galleries in 2021 to allow for digital immersion exhibits. It was part of a long-term plan to make the centre more accessible to Calgarians.

Telus Spark will be engaging with their Indigenous advisory circle on the project. The group works with the science centre on all aspects of their organization. It ensures that Indigenous ways of knowing are incorporated, and helps broaden the perspective of staff when looking at public engagement.

“As we develop it, we have plans to continue to consult and work with our advisers, but also the community to really make sure that we’re building, first of all an engaging and entertaining story, but also something respectful and accurate to the culture that the stories come from,” said Tate.

Engagement with Treaty 7 members

The centre will be engaging with members from all of the Treaty 7 members, but primarily with Blackfoot members from where the story of Sacred Defenders of the Universe comes from.

Their current Quantum Sandbox interactive exhibit also benefited from their Indigenous advisory circle.

“I encourage everybody to come and check out Quantum Sandbox, it was also informed by our great relationship with Indigenous communities,” said Tate.

“It connects quantum physics and actually, Indigenous science. They’re very related in the way that they align on multiple principles in quantum physics—so it’s been eye-opening for me,” he said.

He said that visitors would get a good idea of what technical capabilities were for the Sacred Defenders of the Universe exhibit, but also have a very cool science-based experience.

“So imagine, you know, your van Gogh with lots of amazing video and immersive imagery, but actually being able to influence that, and play within that, and have it changed with your movements and motions in the space.”

Federal government putting focus on Indigenous tourism

Prior to the start of the pandemic, Indigenous led tourism was one of the fastest growing niche tourism sectors in Alberta. In 2019 it was estimated to be worth approximately $166.2 towards Alberta’s economy.

Shae Bird, CEO for Indigenous Tourism Alberta, said that programs offered through ITA have allowed for individual operators to make it through the pandemic.

“ITA programs not only helped entrepreneurs navigate tough times but also align with long-term strategies for growth,” he said.

Making up the remainder of the $1.3 million investment, $843,000 will be directed towards Indigenous tourism operators in the province. The goal is to create resiliency in the sector, along with providing mentorship programs and showcasing operators.

The federal government has dedicated $50 million out of a budgeted $500 million from the Tourism Relief Fund for Indigenous tourism initiatives.

“Our investments in support of Alberta’s fast-growing Indigenous tourism sector are helping showcase Alberta as a leading Indigenous tourism destination in Canada,” said George Chahal, MP for Calgary Skyview.

Tate said that it was the already-existing strong relationship that Telus Spark had with Indigenous communities in Alberta that made it an attractive investment opportunity for the government.

“We’re very excited to be a part of that, but this is something that we’ve been doing for a number of years,” he said.

“It’s the strong relationship that we have, and the place in which we can position ourselves as a unique storyteller in sharing Indigenous cultures as part of something that we believe to be appealing not only to Calgarians, or the local community, but also Canadians and the international community as a tourism product.”

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