Métis artist Destiny Swiderski transforms back alley into award-winning 'connector'

Métis artist Destiny Swiderski is hoping her art is going to turn heads in the direction of Edmonton's Beaver Hills House Park.

'It was a dark alley. It was really important for me to create a sense of safety at night and ... a story'

This art instillation connects Michael Phair Park with Beaver Hills House Park at Jasper Avenue and 103 Street. (John Robertson/CBC)

Destiny Swiderski lives to create whether it's tending to an acres of blueberries on Vancouver Island or designing and installing massive public art projects.

The 36-year-old Métis artist's latest work occupies a previously bare wall connecting the relatively new Michael Phair Park with Beaver Hills House Park that's been at Jasper Avenue and 103rd Street for close to 40 years now.
Artist and designer Destiny Swiderski. (Destiny Swiderski)

Swiderski remembers being presented with the artistic challenge.

"I had this site; it was a dark alley. It was really important for me to create a sense of safety at night and to create a story."

In the mural, more than 150 copper silhouettes of Bohemian waxwings swoop over a lodgepole forest.

Swiderski says she put her heart and soul into a project that took a year from conception to completion.

"This piece was not just going to be about me, it was going to be about the community at large and what they had to say."

It's the reason the lead artist enlisted the help of individuals from Edmonton organizations like the iHuman Youth Society and the Canadian Native Friendship Centre.
Some of the three-dimensional bird silhouettes now greeting visitors to Edmonton's Beaver Hills House Park. (John Robertson/CBC)

"It was very important that I got knowledge holders and elders as collaborators because they were my teachers," Swiderski said.

She gave them some of the birds to personalize.

"All I said to them was 'Tell me your story,' so they drew, they put letters, words of peace and love, so it really talked about what they were feeling about the past, the present and the future," she said.

"I also really needed to make that connection between the rural Beaver Hills Park which is located east of Edmonton and the urban environment where (this) park was placed."

Will Truchon, chair of the public art committee with the Edmonton Arts Council, says Swiderski's work is just the latest success by an Indigenous artist in the city.

"Essentially it increases our quality of life"

6 years ago
Duration 3:52
Featured VideoWill Truchon, chair of the public art committee with the Edmonton Arts Council, gives us a tour of some of the work on display.

Truchon points to the mural by Alex Janvier at Rogers Place, another by Aaron Paquette at the Grandin LRT station, work by David Garneau taking place now on the Edmonton's Tawatinâ LRT bridge and the construction of a new Indigenous art park.

"I think everywhere you go, it's really nice to see public art and a lot of it talks about the history in the community. Essentially it increases our quality of life," said Truchon.

This month, Swiderski's Beaver Hills House Park mural was recognized by the organization American for the Arts in its year in review of "outstanding" public art projects.   

You can see more from Beaver Hills House Park this week on Our Edmonton Saturday at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Sunday and Monday on CBC TV.
Public art is part of Beaver Hills House Park. (John Robertson/CBC )