Mural festival looks to transform Beltline neighbourhoods

A free festival is underway to celebrate nearly a dozen large murals going up on buildings in the inner-city neighbourhood.

'The good thing about murals and public art is that it's for everybody'

Mural festival looks to transform Calgary's Beltline

3 years ago
The BUMP (Beltline Urban Murals Project) Festival is bringing colour to Calgary. 3:05

Calgary's Beltine neighbourhoods just got a little bit brighter.

The BUMP (Beltline Urban Murals Project) Festival, which started Thursday and continues through Saturday. It features mural artists painting in various locations across the Beltline, accompanied by DJs, live music, food trucks — and a Saturday alley party.

People can go out on Saturday to watch the murals being painted live, and artists will discuss their work on Friday at 8 p.m. at McHugh House (1515 Centre St. S.). 

Artist Natalie Nehlawi works on her mural near Community Foods on 10th Avenue S.W. The wall artwork was commissioned as part of the BUMP Festival, which is creating new murals around the Beltline. (Monty Kruger/CBC News)

There's an alley party on Saturday from 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. with music, hands-on art activities, food and mural tours at 1235 10th Avenue S.W. 

BUMP director Peter Shryvers spoke to CBC News and the Calgary Eyeopener about the evolution of the mural project, which launched in 2017 with four walls. Eleven more are being added.

"For me, the biggest draw of murals is that they transform spaces," Shryvers said.

"You can take a space that looks kind of unwanted, underused — and maybe even frightening —​ and turn it into something bright and beautiful."

Neighbourhood funded

The $275,000 project was funded by the association using a combination of street parking fees, private sponsors and a development fund that Beltline developers contribute to.

The artists were selected from 66 applicants, who chose their own themes, Shryvers said.

"We don't have many restrictions, other than no violence or gratuitous nudity, and we've had a lot of really great responses from the artists in terms of concepts and designs," Shryvers said.

A mural created by Nasariamba (a.k.a. Rachel Ziriada and Mikhail Miller) is part of the 2018 BUMP Festival in Calgary. (Monty Kruger/CBC News)

Local artists

For Rachel Ziriada and art partner Mikhail Miller — who create by the name of Nasariamba — part of the thrill of the BUMP Festival is knowing they'll have a chance to see how well their work ages.

"We've participated in several other mural festivals across Canada and painting in Mexico as well, so it's nice to finally get funding to do a nice big wall in our city that we don't have to leave behind — we can still go and visit it and [check out] the other ones as well," Ziriada said.

The creation she was working on with Miller was a bright, abstract piece that mixes latex paint applied with rollers and spray paint (for detail).

"It's a really fun art form to work in such a large scale," Ziriada said.

"Because of the public nature of the work, people can talk about issues with this type of artwork or it can be used to change the feel of a neighbourhood. With our abstract designs, we hope to bring positivity and​ colour (to the neighbourhood)."

This map shows the locations of murals in the Beltline. The blue paint rollers indicate the ones made in 2017. The pink ones indicate the ones being made for this year's festival. (BUMP Festival)


For artist Natalie Nehlawi, who is creating a gigantic mural of bees across from Community Foods on 10th Avenue S.W., the message of her mural lies in the oddly-coloured bees that give off a bit of a dystopian vibe.

It turns out that's exactly what Nehlawi is aiming for.

"I chose colours that were unnatural, because bees come in contact with a lot of pesticides lately, and that's what are killing them off. So I have the wings different colours and the bees themselves are two different tones of black. It just represents that we're not in a natural state right now."

Her dystopian bees are drawing reactions from pedestrians, too.

"It feels great to be a part of the community. I get a great sense of pride from people who walk by and head on down to the Community Foods store, and a lot of people have expressed their excitement about this project. It's exciting that I'm going to have a painting here."

The festival was partly inspired by similar festivals in Montreal and Vancouver that celebrate mural art. (Robson Fletcher/CBC News)

Free festival

The best thing of all, Shryvers said, is the 11 new works of art are accessible to everyone.

"The good thing about murals and public art is that it's for everybody. You don't have to pay to go into a gallery, it's not in some corporate boardroom. It's for everybody," he said.

In a similar initiative, the city announced Friday that it has selected two neighbourhoods in downtown Calgary to have murals "that reflect the neighbourhoods' principles of inclusion, sustainability and community pride," it said in a release.

Artists Alex Kwong and Jason Botkin have been chosen to create the murals.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener and Monty Kruger.


Stephen Hunt

Digital Writer

Stephen Hunt is a digital writer at the CBC in Calgary. Email: