‘Insulting’: Indigenous artist reacts to wall being built in front of his mural

Community is outraged that a new development covered a popular mural without warning or consultation

By Krista Sylvester | October 7, 2021 |11:03 pm

Left, artist Kalum Teke Dan works on his mural. Right, the brick wall that is covering it.

Photo: 📷 Kalum Teke Dan // Submitted

Insulted. Disrespected. Silenced. 

Those are the emotions Indigenous artist Kalum Teke Dan is feeling this week after discovering that his Blood Tribe roots-themed mural called ‘Sunset Song’ was covered by a grey brick wall at 1240 17th Ave. SW in the former KFC lot. 

His mural was commissioned in 2018 by a private business on 17th Avenue as part of the Beltline Urban Murals Project (BUMP). It was a popular sight in the community for the past three years, even being listed as number nine on the 111 Things You Must Not Miss in Calgary book by Jennifer Bain. 

“The community is very upset. They are very disappointed. There are people on my Facebook trying to stop it, but I don’t think there is anything we can do,” he says. 

It was always meant to be temporary, but the artist nor the business that commissioned the piece were consulted or warned before the wall popped up sometime last week. 

“It was kind of insulting, and at the same time, disrespectful,” the artist says, adding it was done in a way that seems purposeful. 

“They could have at least consulted us, it just looks totally stupid. If I was a company and I was going to build a building, I’d be like, ‘Oh, hey, this there’s a mural here’. I would have tried to find the artist or talk to the building.” 

Vibrant colour turns to grey slate 

Instead, the brick wall was placed directly in front of the mural. According to the City of Calgary website, a development permit was approved in March 2021 for a company called Meiga Development Corporation. 

Calgary Citizen tried calling the phone number listed, but it was out of service, and emails to the company went unanswered as of deadline. 

BUMP said in a statement on their website that while the mural was always meant to be temporary, they understand the impact its loss will have. 

“We are deeply saddened at the loss of this much-loved mural and know that this loss will be felt deeply in our community. It was an inspiring mural celebrating Indigenous culture and resilience, drawing on Kalum’s Blackfoot and Blood Tribe heritage and years of work developing his practice as an artist.”

They hope to work with the artist on another BUMP community mural in 2022, something Dan says he would be interested in. 

“While this mural will be missed by our team and the larger community, we also very much understand and appreciate the inherent temporary nature of public mural art.”

An unfortunate reality 

The City of Calgary said while it is not directly involved with this project as it was a private mural commissioned by a private business, officials understand the impact its removal will have on the community. 

“The timing of construction on the neighbouring parcel, which will obscure Kalum Teke Dan’s work, is truly unfortunate following the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. It’s a reminder of the importance of Indigenous artwork in Calgary,” the city statement said, adding the city’s public art program continues to actively work with Indigenous artists to showcase the rich, and complex history of this land.

“Murals are not protected from construction on adjacent sites and have become part of the dynamic and constantly changing face of our city. In this instance, The City of Calgary approved a development permit to the adjacent landowner to develop the property.”

The city says there is currently an unrelated temporary stop-work notice on this site and an investigation is ongoing, and once that is resolved, construction may proceed as planned.

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Krista Sylvester

Reporter at Calgary Citizen

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