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Beddington Bartwall celebrates the art of graffiti in a positive way

Nestled in behind the Beddington Theatre Arts Centre is a project that aims to flip the script on graffiti as an art form.

The Bartwall—a portmanteau of Beddington Art Wall which also harkens to the laddish behaviour of Bart Simpson—was put up by its creator Brady Adkins as a way to re-imagine art in the community.

“Bartwall is a legal graffiti wall with a different name, and it’s trying to give people that might be interested in graffiti art a place to practice,” said Adkins.

“I’d like to help Beddington express its unique identity. I want to give the youth who live here a voice in their community, so they’re proud to live here and they’re proud of being in Beddington.”

Changing that narrative about what graffiti is, is about recognizing the uniqueness of the art form separate from the conceptions of vandalism or crime.

“Graffiti, to me is the voice of the streets. It’s accessible, it’s compelling, it’s thought-provoking, and I think it’s just really cool looking. It’s such a good outlet and an expression of hip-hop culture, traditionally,” Adkins said.

“I see a lot of walls around my neighbourhood and my community that aren’t incredibly interesting or they are constantly being repainted and buffed out when they are vandalized. If you instead harness that energy of artists who are willing to work for free just to be able to express themselves, you could generate some really positive culture in the community and give Beddington that unique identity.”

Among the positive messages that Adkins posted as part of the Bartwall rules of use is to be supportive of other people using the wall, especially those artists trying new techniques or just getting started, and to not be afraid to cover other pieces, but to be respectful that they also made an effort to create art and that a project like this is communal in nature.

The Beddington Art Wall, also known as the Bartwall, at the Beddington Theatre Arts Centre in Calgary on Saturday, October 14, 2023. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

A community effort

The wall came about as a result of Adkins serving on the re-imagine Beddington group with the Beddington Community Association, which works on projects like the community garden to engage local residents in creative ways.

“When you propose a graffiti wall to a community association, there’s a lot of opposition. So, if you say it’s temporary, that helps take a lot of that out, and I can take ownership for it. I walk past it to and from the bus every day, so I can make sure it’s appropriate and not offensive.”

Materials and a location for the wall came about as a result of Adkins serving as a volunteer during the last provincial general election and from Adkins good relations with JP Thibodeau, who serves as the Artistic Director for Storybook Theatre, which uses the centre.

When that election was finished, Amanda Chapman who won the riding, had many leftover signs and pieces of timber that would have otherwise been sent to the landfill.

“Approaching her and her team for the materials, they were only too happy to get it out of Amanda’s garage, and for it to have another life and not just to end up in a landfill,” Adkins said.

The temporary nature of the wall means that eventually, parts of it will have to be taken down—which is planned for early November when the snow begins to fall.

Brady Adkins at the Beddington Art Wall, also known as the Bartwall, at the Beddington Theatre Arts Centre in Calgary on Saturday, October 14, 2023. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Art wall diverted vandalism from community assets

He said that so far the community reaction to the project has been a positive one and that vandalism to the centre has been in sharp decline over the past three months.

“So far I’ve only caught a couple painters, and they’re always excited of course and I’m excited to see them. Overall it’s gone really well. I buffed out one curse word, but other than that everyone else who contributed was creative, imaginative, appropriate, and inclusive,” Adkins said.

“Usually the shed where we keep the stuff for the garden and for the rink usually attracts a fair bit of graffiti every year, and I haven’t noticed anything this year. So, I think that’s a positive sign.”

The Bartwall undergoes its final re-paint of the year on Oct. 20.

For more details on the re-imagine Beddington group, see the association’s website at beddingtoncommunity.ca/reimagine.