New city hall art displays Indigenous past and future of Calgary

‘I want everybody to look at these and be proud, to be proud of where they are. We’re on Blackfoot territory’

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Vibrant images of Indigenous history and the future of reconciliation unfolded 30 feet down pillars in the city hall atrium Thursday.


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Local muralist Kalum Teke Dan created the three images — together titled Past, Present, Future — to illustrate the history of the land that’s now called Calgary, and show how Indigenous ways and traditions are still alive.

Dan, a Blackfoot artist with roots in the Blood Tribe in southern Alberta, looked on as crews put the banners on display Thursday morning. His mother worked for the city for 30 years, he said, and now his art will be displayed just outside council chambers, a place he’s known well since he was a child.

“I want everybody to look at these and be proud, to be proud of where they are. We’re on Blackfoot territory,” he said. “We’re trying to show what we’re about. We are very proud people.”

The banners were commissioned as part of the city’s Indigenous place-keeping program. Dan’s art will be up for two years, and work from other Indigenous artists living in Calgary and the surrounding area will rotate through the municipal atrium in the future.


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City of Calgary Indigenous public art curator Jessica McMann said it’s important for people who live in Calgary to be exposed to Indigenous art, especially in an important venue such as city hall.

“This is a place of governance, and also many newcomers come into this building as well,” she said.

“It’s really important that everyone witnesses Indigenous artwork within this place. As well, it’s a step in reconciliation for everybody — people who work in the building but also all Calgarians who come visit this space.”

Dan’s project was in the works for a few years, from planning and organizing the concept to about three months of “solid painting” on a huge custom easel he worked on in his home studio. After the original acrylic on canvas paintings were done, the images were printed on the banners that are now on public display.


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“Basically, through reconciliation I was just trying to show images of our past, our present and what is to come for our future,” he said.

The banner that represents the past shows how Indigenous people used to live along the rivers that run through Calgary, and the image of the present shows the Calgary Tower but also tells a story about how the city sits on Blackfoot land, Dan said.

“I chose the youth in the future because they are going to be our next leaders.”

Eagles also weave throughout the work, which Dan said represents strength.

“In these images, I have a lot of the eagle in there because the eagle is the guardian, the guide. It’s such a prominent image in our culture.”
Twitter: @meksmith



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