Indigenous art installations to fill the halls of Calgary's new library
Once crews lay the last brick of the new library in downtown Calgary on Friday, the focus will shift inside the facility to fill it with art and furniture and some of those pieces will honour Treaty 7 nations.
Six Indigenous artists will be contributing work to the new Central Library and the pieces include murals, a sculpture and even some unique furniture inside a one-of-a-kind room.
Jared Tailfeathers, who works with the CPL on Indigenous projects and programming, says it’s an incredible project for artists.
“It was a huge opportunity for local artists and also for the communities to communicate with their artists and communicate with the other Treaty 7 nations and also to be part of the city. Sometime, that’s hard for Indigenous people.”
Visitors to the library will be able to witness the first work by three of the Indigenous artists as soon as they enter the building.
“You walk in and the building opens up into an atrium and the wall to the left of the front doors is the Welcome Wall,” Tailfeathers says.
The Welcome Wall is a mural collaboration between three artists from three different First Nations, Keegan Starlight, Kalum Teke Dan and Roland Rollinmud.
The second piece is the sculpture of a bison, by artist Lionel Peyachew, in the civic concourse on the mezzanine level.
“There is going to be a sculpture of a bison made out of words from Treaty 7 languages as well as English words. There will be a little bit of educational feel to that where there will be a bit of a word search type thing.”
He says the sculpture will be particularly special because of the importance of the plains bison to the Indigenous peoples of Treaty 7.
The final location the art installations is inside a special room called the Elder’s Guidance Room, a place that Tailfeathers says has a very special role for Indigenous people in the area.
“Elders from Treaty 7 can come and use that room for their purposes. For ceremonies, for meetings with Indigenous people from the area as well as meeting with non-Indigenous people to educate them and also to help them feel more a part of the programming and the day-to-day activities of the library.”
That room will be furnished with a table and chairs by Glenna Cardinal and a photo display by Brittney Bear Hat.
Tailfeathers says he’s seen photos of the walnut table which is adorned with river rocks from each of the Treaty 7 nations.
“This is one of the first places in Treaty 7 where elders have a room that is just for them.”
Bear Hat says that she is really excited to be a part of the downtown library initiative.
“I’m making a photo-based installation, doing five framed photos of Calgary-area landscapes out on the river with some text based on retellings of stories.”
Those stories reflect her work; personal accounts of her life growing up as a member of Treaty 7 living in the Calgary area.
“It’s a childhood memory of me and my father and how he taught us how to swim in the river. A lot of the things that he passed down to us is a skill of the land, being able to survive in this environment. There’s a lot of care into how these are passed down and that care goes back into the land.”
The permanent art installation cost $500,000 and aims to create a welcoming and inclusive environment in the building.
The Central Library is scheduled to open on November 1.
(With files from Brad MacLeod)