Since it began in 2017, the Beltline Urban Mural Project — or BUMP as its known — has brightened the downtown core with street art that transforms nondescript buildings and parking lots into outdoor art galleries.
Four murals were painted in its first year, and the project has grown ever since, with 12 murals added in 2018 and 15 more in 2019.
COVID-19 couldn’t slow down the project, which returned with an even bigger scope: this year’s slew of local, national and international artists were commissioned to create 21 pieces this month.
- WATCH | Take a tour through three of the colourful projects in the video above
The expanded roster means there are even more sights on the GPS-enabled walking tours the festival is offering this summer, and tons of artist interviews that the public can watch online to stay COVID-safe.
Three of its artists offered a glimpse at their murals, and what has inspired them, before the festival officially wraps up for another year on Aug. 30.
Adrianne Williams, a multidisciplinary artist who is creating her first piece on the side of Caribbean restaurant Simply Irie, said she has applied to be a part of BUMP every year since 2017.
This is her first year taking part, and her enthusiasm for the ongoing project is rooted in its facilitation of public art.
“I love the idea of making art accessible … not necessarily having to go to a gallery, but literally walking down your street, and being able to interact with something, is so important,” Williams said. “It’s not for an elite crowd, it’s for everyone.”
Williams collaborated with the owner of Simply Irie to inspire her mural. She has Caribbean ancestry, and wanted to pay homage to the culture.
In her piece, her daughter kisses a mango as Bob Marley looks on; the wall is as blue as the the sea.
“I wanted to incorporate the things that we love from our culture, and put them on the side of the building to kind of reflect the inside of the restaurant,” Williams said.
“So it’s all about food and family and fruit and the ocean, so I just tried to incorporate all the things of the Caribbean — the things that I love.”
Creating her first mural has taken a lot of time and effort. It has been a learning process, Williams said.
She has been using paint and a paintbrush, and learned from other artists that aerosols and spray cans make the process go faster.
“It really takes a village,” she said. “It’s not me alone. It’s everybody pitching in and helping.”
Urban culture and the individual are themes Williams explores through her artwork, and through her mural, Williams said she is able to illustrate a part of her heritage in a diverse city.
It’s putting her heart on a wall, she said.
“I think Calgary is a melting pot of all different cultures, and that’s what makes it great and unique and special,” Williams said.
“So to be able to bring a piece of what I grew up with, and what I know, and what my family loves, and be able to display it in my art form, I feel like, is a blessing. And I feel really humbled by it.”
Nathan Patrick Meguinis
Nathan Patrick Meguinis — whose Tsuut’ina names include BuffaloBoy, TravelingRock, and Kind Hearted Man — has painted a vivid scene in an alley at 1320 First St. S.E.
A blue buffalo, turquoise hoof prints and riders on horseback are emblazoned on an expansive, bright yellow wall.
“For me, it represents my connection to the Treaty 7 territory, and my overall heritage,” Meguinis said.
“It’s actually a blessing, because I have an opportunity to do something unique and make my mark. And not only that, share … culture just through art.”
The piece has tested him, he said: The left side of the wall was more rigid, and absorbed more paint, while the right side was smoother, and easier to work with.
Meguinis also challenged himself with different mediums, and experimented with spray cans and stencils to a paint brush.
The piece is a blend of abstraction with realism, and every colour has meaning.
Red represents Mother Earth; green represents everything that grows; blue represents water; yellow represents the sun, and is a colour of protection; black represents something powerful and strong.
And throughout the process of creating it, homeowners in the area have gathered to watch his progress, and cheer him on.
“This is a huge thing for me,” Meguinis said.
“For me to have this opportunity to do a large painting like this, my own masterpiece, and to have the city of Calgary be so open and welcoming.… it’s real positive reinforcement. Stuff that I needed.”
Artist and illustrator Ola Volo is in Calgary to participate in BUMP for a second time, and the city has been dazzling her.
“I’ve been so enamoured with how much art is happening in Calgary … my eyes are all over the murals across the city,” Volo said. “It’s a big honour for me to be part of it, and to take on a space this big.”
Born in Kazakhstan and raised in Vancouver, the Montreal artist draws inspiration from eastern European folklore and multiculturalism.
Her piece splashes across a brick wall at 610 17th Avenue S.W., and portrays a woman on horseback, leaping into the sky.
“I like to showcase women who are empowered, who feel confident, who feel like they can take up a space — especially on a wall this big,” Volo said.
“I’m just really looking forward to seeing the whole piece come together, and for it to really start to speak to what the story is about.”
Having a chance to take part in festivals like BUMP is important to Volo, who said it makes her feel connected to communities.
It also fosters diverse artists, showcases a range of styles, and makes the ordinary extraordinary, she said.
“You open up the possibilities of having so many different styles on the walls, so many different stories,” Volo said.
“And what I think that makes is a walking gallery that is affordable, it’s free, it’s for everyone, from every age group … it changes cities. It makes landmarks where there weren’t before.”