Edmonton

'Ghost dogs' hit the tracks on Edmonton's new art train

A city train adorned with sprightly red dogs dancing across the windows is the latest addition to Edmonton's urban art gallery.

'I thought it would be really interesting to have art almost by chance'

The YEGCanvas Super Train, a mobile art galley, features the work of Edmonton-based artist Halie Finney. (Edmonton Arts Council/Facebook)

A city train adorned with sprightly red dogs dancing across the windows is the latest addition to Edmonton's urban art gallery.

The work by Edmonton-based artist Halie Finney turns static illustrations in acrylic ink into a moving mural as the train slides along the city's LRT tracks.

The project is called the YEGCanvas Super Train.

Finney said she often watches trains pass over the river and was inspired by the idea of an exhibit in motion.

"My first thought when I thought of artwork on the train was that it would be really interesting to see your art go by on top of the bridge," Finney said in an interview with CBC Edmonton's Radio Active.

"I thought it would be really interesting to have art almost by chance, people run into it and don't know what it is."

Art in unlikely places

The mobile art is part of the YEGCanvas in Transit initiative which brings art out of the gallery and into the streets of Edmonton.

The exhibition, presented in partnership by the Edmonton Arts Council and in collaboration with Pattison Outdoor Advertising, places art in LRT stations and cars, and city buses.

David Turnbull, director of public art and conservation with the Edmonton Arts Council, said the project is meant to profile the work of emerging artists that may not fit in a conventional gallery.

"It gives the [artists] a real opportunity and I think it also gives something to people on their daily commutes," Turbull said.

"Whether it's on the bus, the LRT or driving along, why shouldn't we have something to look at and consider?

"It's phenomenal. If you had art everywhere on your commute, I mean, who wouldn't be happy?"

Turnbull said 135 artworks by 107 artists have been exhibited by the project so far.

"The last three iterations of the project, we focused more on the posters and billboards around the city ... we wanted to mix it up a little bit," he said.

"[Pattison] suggested, 'What about the LRT and bus platforms?' We were like, yeah, give us everything you can."

Ghost dogs 

Finney, a Metis graduate of the MacEwan University Fine Arts Program and the Alberta College of Art and Design, was selected after a direct call to Edmonton-based urban Indigenous artists.

Finney's work on the train car is a series of pieces collectively called The Story of the Ghost Dogs.

A large mural wraps around the train's exterior. Six pieces adorn the car's interior walls.

"There's all these dogs flying through the sky," she said. "You'll walk in and you'll see a doghouse with ghosts hiding behind it.

"By the arch of the train, there is another dog transforming into a ghost by a bonfire and the sky is really magical. It's all red and bright.

"You can kind of make your own narrative. It's open ended."

Ghost dogs are a recurring theme in Finney's work. The imagery comes from a place of grief, she said.

Growing up beside a busy rural highway in Canyon Creek, Alta., many of her childhood dogs were killed by passing cars. Their bodies were buried in the yard, wrapped in blankets.

As Finney dealt with the death of her grandfather a year and half ago, the image of a spirit dog wrapped in a shroud kept resurfacing along with her grief.

"They started out as drawings in my sketchbook," she said. "They just kind of progressed as I worked on them. They became a little bit more joyful and made their own narrative.

"Most of my stuff turns into its own folktale."

Finney's artwork will be on the YegCanvas Super Train until September.