August 7, 2017 8:49 pm
Updated: August 8, 2017 4:09 pm

Rejected Siksika artist weighs in on controversial Bowfort Towers sculpture

WATCH ABOVE: The artwork is still unfinished but a public art piece on the Trans-Canada Highway is getting a lot of criticism. Jill Croteau reports.


Two years ago, artist Adrian Stimson was intrigued by a public art proposal.

He applied to the City of Calgary to make a bid for his own creative submission to the permanent public art project at the new Trans-Canada Highway and Bowfort Road N.W. interchange. But his application was rejected – his proposal apparently missed the deadline. Stimson lives on the Siksika Nation and is Blackfoot.

The winning submission went to New York artists Del Geist and Patricia Leighton. The artwork is still unfinished but its early reveal is getting a lot of criticism.

READ MORE: ‘It looks like a burial tower:’ Controversy over Calgary’s new public art project

“Sometimes you have to put aside your artistic ego and style and do something that works for the community,” Stimson says.

The art installation at the Trans Canada Highway/ Bowfort Road Interchange was unveiled on Aug. 3, 2017.

Aurelio Perri/ Global News

The city’s intent was for “the Bowfort Towers” to align with Blackfoot cultural symbolism: four seasons, four directions, four elements and four human stages. But Stimson says it’s hard to dispute its visual connection to traditional burials.

Scaffolding burials


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“I don’t think they were set out to offend anybody but without truly checking in with the indigenous voices, you’re going to do something that isn’t right,” Stimson says. “As a Blackfoot man, I will have difficulty going by that piece and even as a contemporary artist, I can accept it, but I will go by thinking funeral platforms no matter what I do.”

The chief of Siksika Nation has said he was not consulted nor was there any respect for proper protocol for use of traditional land. Chief Joseph Weasel Child plans on calling for a meeting with Mayor Naheed Nenshi to discuss the issue.

But many wonder if the damage can be repaired.

“How we proceed from here when you have a whole group of people [that] are offended and upset about it – it’ll be interesting how they work through this one,” Stimson says.

LISTEN: Ward 9 Councillor Gian-Carlo Carra joins Newstalk 770’s Rob Breakenridge on air to chat about Calgary’s public art program. 

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