Indigenous

2 public artworks unveiled in Calgary for National Day of Truth and Reconciliation

The artists behind a new mural and a digital app are aiming to create dialogue and public engagement in Calgary for Canada's inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30.

New mural, virtual art app aim to create dialogue about residential schools

The mural painted by Ryan Jason Allen Willert and Karen Scarlett outside of Calgary's Alexandra Society centre. (Floyd Black Horse/CBC)

The artists behind a new mural and a digital app are aiming to create dialogue and public engagement in Calgary for Canada's inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30.

Ryan Jason Allen Willert, from Siksika Nation, collaborated on a mural at the Alexandra Centre Society to tell the story of life before residential schools.

"It was mostly the symbolism that mattered the most in the making of the mural," said Willert.

The mural features five eagle feathers, animal tracks and the Bow River.

"We made a game of hopscotch to represent the Indigenous children that went missing or were survivors of the residential school," said Willert.

Ryan Jason Allen Willert (left) and Karen Scarlett (right) in front of their mural. (Submitted by Karen Scarlett)

He collaborated with non-Indigenous artist Karen Scarlett on the project, which the pair painted in three days.

"Ryan and I hit it off," Scarlett said.

"We had a lot of fun, laughter. Any time we were starting to struggle, he pulled out the sweetgrass and sage, and we did a smudge. It was really easy to work together."

Scarlett was seeking an Indigenous-based art concept for the project. They were able to collaborate on ideas and work together by sharing perspectives.

Orange feet are painted onto the sidewalk to depict the game of hopscotch. (Floyd Black Horse/CBC)

"I got to talk to him about how I'm connected to my heritage and the history of Alberta from a settler's perspective and how I am concerned about racism. I want everybody to have a strong voice." said Scarlett.

Virtual art

Indigenous youth are sharing their creations through another public art showcase in Calgary called IndigiTRAILS.

LeeAnne Ireland, executive director at the Urban Society for Aboriginal Youth, said the trail at Prince's Island Park called Remembering Our Children is the first for their app.

"It's inspired by survivors of residential schools and also honouring those stories and legacy that residential schools have had on our community," said Ireland.

Digital art by Indigenous youth in Prince's Island Park shows up on phones with the IndigiTRAILS app. (Submitted by Urban Society for Aboriginal Youth)

The art was created by seven Indigenous youth between the ages of 15 and 23 from several different nations.

"As you walk around the seven different art installations, it's a timeline of where we've been, where we are and what we hope our future will look like," said Ireland.

The app uses GPS location on your phone to take you for a walk and shows you the art installations at the locations via your device.

"During COVID, we can't all come together so it's nice that it's outdoors, you can take a bannock kit, and go through the experience," she said.

"It makes people feel like they're doing something to be good allies and be part of honouring and remembering this time in Canada's history."

It takes about 30 minutes to do the park art tour with the IndigiTRAILS app.

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