Bowfort Towers art project creates concerns of cultural insensitivity
Controversy continues to grow over a piece of public art installed near the new interchange near Canada Olympic Park.
“Bowfort Towers” was unveiled last week and many people are concerned about its striking similarity to an indigenous burial site.
Michelle Robinson, an indigenous woman running for a position on Calgary city council in this October’s municipal election, says her social media exploded when the sculpture went up.
“I’m a proud Calgarian. I want to welcome everybody who comes here. If that art piece is going to be upsetting to indigenous people who come in, especially from the west, we don’t want to welcome them in a wrong way,” she says.
On Tuesday, Kevin Littlelight, spokesperson for the Tsuut’ina Nation, released this statement.
“Tsuut’ina resisted offers to comment on the Trans-Canada highway public art installation until we had time to thoughtfully review the exhibit and its background. Now, Tsuut’ina believes that attempting to reflect First Nations art or symbolism in the absence of collaboration with local First Nations artists and elders is not reflective of other recent steps by Calgary City Hall to respect Treaty 7 Nations. These steps have included progress on executing on the terms of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the raising of Treaty 7’s flag at City Hall. Tsuut’ina will gladly supply elders and cultural experts to assist in determining what the next steps are for this exhibit – an exhibit that is causing serious concern among both First Nation and non-First Nation people in Calgary and area.”
Adrian Stinson, an indigenous artist, says the city needs to do a better job of vetting art projects.
“The artist needs to show the group what they're working on so that people can actually give input to say oh you know there's a red flag that's too close to a brutal platform, you might want to rethink that because you're going to offend people,” says Stinson.
“I know nobody meant to offend anybody that's not the issue but now that it's up and it does look so similar I think we’re going to have to look at ways to modify it,” says Robinson.
“Bowfort Towers” was designed by a New York sculptor and cost $500,000.00 but one city councillor says it’s not art.
Sean Chu, Ward 4 councillor, also believes it’s time to put art projects up on a website and give Calgarians the final say.
“Everybody understands democracy. If that's the case I don't think we would be here talking about this piece of art, if that's the process,” says Chu.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi has not commented publicly on the sculpture.
The sculptor, Del Geist, did not respond to our request for comment.