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Barlow/Max Bell LRT mural first in collaboration between BUMP and Calgary Transit

Gone is the graffiti on the concrete exterior of the Barlow/Max Bell LRT station, and its place, a first-of-its-kind collaboration between Calgary Transit and the Beltline Urban Mural Project (BUMP).

Mao Projects, consisting of Mao Chen and Chris Savage, were selected to be the first artists to take part in the TRANSITWORKS project which has transformed the south entrance of the LRT station.

Further murals by other local Calgary artists are planned for the Marlborough, Rundle, Southland and Banff Trail stations.

Savage said that he and Chen looked closely at the cultural and socioeconomic attributes of the area surrounding the station, in order to come up with a work of art that would be representative of the station users.

“We really wanted to try and find a way to represent that, and really speak to all of these different cultures and different backgrounds in this area in particular,” he said.

The mural is also a first for Mao Projects, which typically works on smaller-scale ceramic pieces.

“We were nervous to get started, but also really excited to add something that has a bit more longevity in the space, based on a lot of the interactions we’ve had with people passing by and utilizing the transit on their daily commutes,” Savage said.

Chen said that the colours and designs reflect their ceramic work, and traditional colours from her Chinese heritage.

“We’re using colour from these long-lasting masterpiece garments as our reference, and then a lot of symbols have overlap meanings for both Eastern and Western cultures,” Chen said.

“I think that will be able to arouse more people’s consensus, rather than titling one specific cultural background.”

The response already, said Savage, has been positive from people watching the pair work.

“They’re just so thrilled to have something like this big mural project going up to hopefully prevent some of the graffiti from happening again in the future, and just to add something a bit more lively and colourful,” Savage said.

A way to ‘re-architect’ Calgary

Priya R, marketing manager for BUMP, said this has been a partnership in the works for some time. It only finally gained steam this year.

“I think painting the train stations is quite incredible,” she said.

“It’s another urban landscape that has a lot of foot traffic.”

BUMP is well-known for creating murals on Beltline buildings, recently expanding to other areas. Priya R said what makes train stations such an interesting space is that it’s a transient space; people from all over the city are moving through it on a regular basis.

The five artists that have been chosen to create the art are local, and one of the goals of the project was to incorporate pieces of the neighbourhood in the works that were created. They wanted to be inspired by the stories of the communities the stations served.

“The way we program art, I think we see our world as a way to re-architect the city, that a lot of artists are architects in the city redevelopment, how it looks and feels to be here,” she said.

“I think like the goal is really, how do we make a city more engaging and thoughtful wherever you are.”

Sharon Fleming, Director of Calgary Transit, said the murals are a big part of re-creating the vibrancy and welcoming space for transit users at the station.

“We’re honoured that these artists have selected Calgary Transit as their canvas to tell their stories and to give our customers the opportunity to experience those stories,” Fleming said.

BUMP previously worked with the City of Calgary on the ROADWORKS project, which saw artists create painted jersey barriers throughout the city.

  • With files from Darren Krause