Bowfort Towers is the new piece of public art near the Trans-Canada Highway at Bowfort Road.
It’s supposed to represent a gateway to Calgary, but some members of the city’s indigenous community said it has the looks of an old cemetery.
“In my mind, I was thinking that it looked like a burial tower,” Calgary artist Yvonne Jobin said.
The city says Del Geist, the New York artist who created the installation, was aware of the Blackfoot history of the site.
“This is the base of Paskapoo Slopes, which is a very important indigenous site,” city manager of arts and culture Sarah Iley said Thursday. “So when we went out looking for artists that would undertake this project, they were given that kind of direction.”
But local indigenous artists don’t think the art reflects their culture at all.
“I don’t see anything that relates to the people of this land…the Blackfoot people or other people such as myself (the Cree) that live here,” said Jobin, who grew up in High Prairie. “I don’t see anything that relates to our culture.”
The city claims the art is linked to Blackfoot tradition.
Iley said there are four towers that relate to the Blackfoot cultural symbolism that relate to the four elements, the four stages of life and the four seasons.
Geist said he consulted with Blackfoot people, but wasn’t trying to make a Blackfoot sculpture.
Michelle Robinson, who is running for councillor in Ward 10 and is currently the Indigenous Peoples Commission Alberta chair, said she’s not aware of any First Nation person on the board responsible for approving the art work.
“There’s a reason why indigenous people are not on community boards and are not included in the bigger picture and it’s that education component,” Robinson said. “We are in a time of reconciliation. We are in a time where we are talking about indigenous inclusion and we are still not seeing it at a simple art policy level.”
The sculpture uses Rundle Rock stones, which are found only in Alberta.
One per cent of capital budget for every infrastructure project is dedicated to public art in Calgary. The cost of the interchange project is $71 million and both the Bowfort Towers and second half of the project came in under budget at $500,000. The fabricator on the project was Metal–Fab Industries, a local company.
The second half of the public art project will be completed in the fall.
Construction of the Trans-Canada/Bowfort interchange is expected to be finished by the end of August.