New artwork is going up this week at the Grandin LRT station to counter a mural that aboriginal people find offensive for how it depicts residential schools run by the Roman Catholic Church.
The original mural pays tribute to Vital Grandin, the first bishop of St. Albert.
One of the panels shows a nun carrying an aboriginal child, which critics say glosses over the sexual and physical abuse, as well as the cultural assimilation, that went on at church-run residential schools.
When she painted the mural 25 years ago, artist Sylvie Nadeau didn’t know the troubled history, but she does now.
“I understand now that I know the story,” she said. “I know the history of the residential school and I see what they see.”
Despite the criticism, the mural will not be taken down. Instead, new pieces created by Nadeau and First Nations artist Aaron Paquette will be installed beside and across from the original artwork.
Nadeau’s new works show the little boy from the old mural growing up to be a powerful young man. At the other end, a young aboriginal woman is dancing and smiling.
Paquette’s pieces are bold and colourful celebrations of aboriginal culture with images of a wolf, bear, raven, thunderbird and a white buffalo, which represents renewal and healing.
“What I hope comes through is that I really created a work of love in order to answer the pain that people might feel about all of these issues,” he said.
The official unveiling is scheduled to take place on Friday to coincide with when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission holds hearings in Edmonton at the end of March.