CALGARY — Ryan Jason Allen Willert has been working for weeks painting a mural for students and staff at Simons Valley School in northwest Calgary, with the inspiration for his artwork rooted in Blackfoot culture and tradition.

The mural features a buffalo — an animal Willart says is prominent to the Blackfoot people and one that he hopes will encourage  children at the school to live a good life.  

“The children are our future and for them to have this, this is something that they come to and see every day,” he said.

“They’re looking at a piece of good medicine for their spirit and their well-being.”

Before picking up a paintbrush, Willart spent a week with each class, teaching them the four lessons of the buffalo:

  • Always take responsibility for your actions
  • Say sorry when sorry is due
  • Forgive yourself
  • Forgive others 

Being able to incorporate those teachings onto the wall with beautiful colours and designs is a nice reminder for Willert.

“I really hope that by doing this I’m encouraging them to go further in life and follow their dreams,” he said.

“I hope that I encourage self-love though my mural.”

Willert has worked on a lot of different murals in his career as an artist but says this one is his favourite.

Ryan Jason Allen Willert mural

“It’s one thing doing a mural downtown or something like that but to do a mural in a school is something completely different,” he said.

“For me to be a part of something that they’re going to wake up and see every day, to encourage them to be loving to others and to themselves, it’s a big honour.”

Students at Simons Valley School have been keenly watching Willert’s work as it unfolded.

Rei Goto is among the most interested and says it’s really cool to be able to speak with Willert and ask him about how he chooses the colours.

“I think it’s pretty cool, whenever I look at it I always feel happy and think of what I could do,” said Goto.

The mural will be unveiled to the public Nov. 28 and the ceremony will feature a powwow mash-up performance by Jess McMann.