It was a big day again for the City of Calgary, with the opening of the Barb Scott Memorial Park, the Inglewood Night Market and the Helping Hands Mural launch, celebrated along with artists, Mark Vazquez-Mackay, Hannah Poon and Ryan Delve and “Just Bill”. I opted to celebrate the Helping Hands mural and so glad that I did! There was a sense of a beautiful community that hovered under the overpass on a very rainy day! There were delicious DONUTS, offered up for free by Jelly Modern Donuts! I was very proud of the creative participants from the create! program in the East Village who contributed to the mural. I was happy to be witness to this historical moment for our city.
Directly from the Calgary Media Release, this background…
“(CALGARY, AB) – Plans to transform a small wall under the 5th Avenue flyover began when “Just Bill,” a resident of the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre (The DI), decided he wanted to add more colour to the neighbourhood by creating a public art installation everyone could enjoy and actually participate in creating.
Bill, a born and raised Albertan, has been homeless for the past 15 years. Two years ago on New Year’s Eve, Bill resolved to explore his lifelong dream of becoming an artist. At 50, he picked up a paintbrush for the first time, began reading books about famous artists and started running with a very creative and collaborative art crowd in Calgary.
“I credit Angel and Angela, the two young women who founded Market Collective here in Calgary, with giving me the courage to really follow my dream and start making my art a reality,” says Bill. “They encouraged me to showcase my work and make connections in the arts scene. It’s changed my life for the better.”
Inspired by some of the magnificent public artwork within East Village, such as Julian Opie’s LED installation “Promenade” and Ron Moppett’s mosaic tile wall “THESAMEWAYBETTER/READER,” Bill and three fellow artists decided they wanted to contribute to the emerging art scene of East Village by adding some colour under the 5th Avenue Flyover. Working with City of Calgary Roads and Centre City Planning & Implementation teams, they have imagined a mural called “This is our City:
Helping Hands,” which celebrates diversity, choice and community building and honours former DI Centre Executive Director Dermot Baldwin for his contributions to Calgary’s homeless. Dermot Baldwin was present to the celebration yesterday.
This isn’t the first time a group of local artists has teamed up to bring life to an unconventional canvas. Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC), the organization charged with redevelopment of the East Village, began a curated art program on the bridge abutments and storage sheds in 2009. Local photographer Derrick Besant debuted his black and white images on the bridge abutments three years ago, and just last summer a new group of Calgary artists called Light & Soul added “The Field Manual: a compendium of local influence” – a mural that spans 11 surfaces along Riverfront Ave.”