Banners of wildlife with musical instruments adds whimsy to walks around downtown Calgary
Local illustrator Jarett Sitter designed imagery for the Centre City Banner Program
Calgarians walking or driving through the city's core may have noticed a series of whimsical banners have recently appeared.
Banners that feature animals playing instruments are flying above the Olympic Plaza pergola and across five bridges in the inner city for the next year.
It's the work of local illustrator and animator Jarett Sitter, the latest artist to design imagery for the Centre City Banner Program that the City of Calgary says seeks to transform gateway bridges into open-air galleries.
"I'm inspired a lot by music within my work … so that kind of came naturally, when I was trying to think of a way to really show my own voice," Sitter told the Calgary Eyeopener on Wednesday.
An absence of live music during the COVID-19 pandemic also played a role in shaping the project, Sitter said.
"I was also just thinking about not being able to go see live music and being, like, trapped in my home. All these animals are kind of trapped within their own environments [in the banners] but making the best of it."
Children's books and skateboard graphics
For more than 10 years, a jury has selected a different artist each year to design artwork for its banner program.
Sitter is a longtime contributor to the city's artistic community, and has illustrated for Sled Island, Beakerhead, the Calgary Folk Music Festival, the Calgary Underground Film Festival and FFWD Weekly — and that's to name only a few.
His city banners feature a frog with a trumpet, a deer with an accordion, a fox playing the violin, a bird strumming a guitar, a rabbit with a keyboard and a squirrel on the drums.
Like much of his work, the illustrations toe the line between cute and creepy, Sitter said. While the violin-playing fox sports a checkered shirt and is near a mountain stream, the rabbit's banner is darker — it's set underground and among scattered bones.
"Work like this has kind of a children's book quality to it," Sitter said. "It's informed by what's the pop culture I was around growing up, like skateboard graphics and T-shirt graphics."
Asked how Sitter decided how to pair animals with specific instruments, he said they just made sense together. Take the frog and trumpet, for instance.
"He's got those cheeks, right?" Sitter said. "Some just seemed like natural fits, like the fox and the violin, for whatever reason."
The art was also designed so that there could be larger, more immediate takeaways for those quickly driving past — but smaller, subtle details for cyclists and pedestrians to examine and uncover.
And for Sitter, involvement in the banner project represents a meaningful contribution to the city.
"Seeing those banners hanging has always been a huge part of what I think about, when I think about Calgary's public art," Sitter said.
"To be able to see Calgary framed in the background of my art that's hanging up — [it] is a great feeling."
Sitter's banners can be seen at the Mewata Bridge, the Louise Bridge, the Centre Street Bridge, the Reconciliation Bridge, the MacDonald Bridge and Olympic Plaza.
With files from the Calgary Eyeoepener.