Over $1 million has gone into improvements at Confederation Park in northwest Calgary to help celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial.
Some of the highlights include additional lights, the completion of a pathway missing link and a public art component in the tunnels that go under 10 and 14 Streets.
While the tunnels help cyclists and joggers get through the park safely, sometimes they make people feel a bit unsafe.
“We knew that the tunnels leading from Confederation Park can be kind of dark and dingy and they can also attract not very interesting tagging.”
“So we thought we could encourage really great art to be made,” said Sarah Iley, the manager of City of Calgary Arts and Culture.
That is where AJA Louden comes in. The Calgary-born artist is part of an art group called the Aerosol Academy.
Through a new city project called the Street Art Program for Youth, Louden has given classes to young people interested in street art.
The teens took part in the design prep work for the Confederation Park tunnel art project.
Louden spent countless hours on his tummy in the park, taking close-up pictures of ladybugs and robins.
“The idea was to capture some of the up-close views of Confederation Park. I wanted to ask people to look a little bit closer at the park,” he said.
Now those images have been transferred onto Louden’s giant underground canvas. Bright and colorful spray paint has been used to create pictures of rabbits hiding in the grass and mallards swimming in ponds.
“At the beginning, people weren’t sure what it was and they weren’t sure if it was graffiti or if it was allowed to be here. So they had a lot of questions,” Louden said. “As things started to evolve, people got really excited about it and I got lots of positive comments and support from the community, which has been great.”
In the past, city crews have regularly repainted the graffiti-covered tunnels.
Louden says he won’t be offended if someone comes along and “adds” to his project.
”I don’t know if there’s really an unwritten rule or anything like that. I just know that when spaces like this are showed a little bit more love, a lot of times they are respected more,” Louden said.
“My background is in graffiti and street art so the irony wouldn’t be lost on me, for sure. I love graffiti, so if they match the colour scheme and made it look good and made it interesting, I wouldn’t be that miffed.”
“Fantastic!” said Greg Bast, who was biking with his children on Friday. “It’s our first time seeing it. We live nearby in Rosemont, so it’s great to see it in the neighbourhood. I like art but I prefer it to be above board if possible.”
The art work in the tunnel under 10 Street has just been completed. The tunnel under 14 Street will be the next one to be transformed.
“When we provide different kinds of street art—like our beautiful utility boxes that are painted by artists—the idea for that is once something is made beautiful through an artist’s hand, people don’t want to tag them,” said Iley.
Confederation Park was created in 1967 to celebrate Canada’s centennial. Now a new playground has been unveiled with some very Canadian touches, including a huge canoe and a wooden fort.
It was the volunteer work of a handful of neighbours over 50 years ago that prompted the city to save the coulee from being turned into a garbage collection area.