Calgary’s new Bowfort Towers art installation has attracted criticism from various quarters — the Tsuut’ina Nation among them.
The public art, which is one part of a two-part installation pegged at a cost of $500,000, sits at the Trans-Canada Highway and Bowfort Road interchange.
Created by New York-based artist Del Geist, it’s meant to pay tribute to Blackfoot culture, and features four columns and rundle rock stones, which are found only in Alberta.
It’s garnered criticism from many, including members of First Nationas communities.
“I don’t see it as a finished product,” Kevin Littlelight, spokesperson for Tsuut’ina said Tuesday. “It does look like a burial scaffold, right off the bat it looks like a Native American burial ground.”
The City of Calgary’s intent was for Bowfort Towers to align with Blackfoot cultural symbolism: four seasons, four directions, four elements and four human stages.
Geist and the city said people of Blackfoot ancestry were consulted in the creation of the piece — but Littlelight still has questions.
“So far, this does not represent aboriginal culture at all,” Littlelight said.
WATCH: The City of Calgary unveiled the Bowfort Towers art installation on August 3
He went on to say that Bowfort Towers is lacking southern Alberta culture, and that there should have been more consultation with artists from any of the Treaty 7 Nations and from artists in Calgary.
“That would be the proper approach to really give it that Calgary flavour,” he said.
“That’s what the world is looking for. They’re not looking for a New York sculpture in Calgary, they’re looking for local artists.”
Littlelight said he feels for the artist, as the installation has been met almost exclusively with criticism since it was revealed to the public.
He said that Geist “has some homework to do,” adding that Tsuut’ina would like to work with the city and the artist to rebuild the piece to better represent Indigenous people.
“We’re here to lend our best artists to be on panels, make these decisions and maybe redesign,” he said. “That’s what we’re hoping for.
“Where’s the celebration of Calgarians? Of western culture? Of Native culture? It’s not prevalent. It’s just some guy saying it is.”
The city has said they chose international artists because it is part of a trade agreement, which means any commissions over a certain price point have to be made through open competition.
Ward 4 Coun. Sean Chu wants to see the public arts funding temporarily frozen until the process can be reviewed. He also wants the public to be more involved.
“Pick top three, top five, whatever, and let the public choose which one,” Chu said. “Everybody understand democracy, you might not like it but you accept it.”
No one from the city or from the Public Art Board responded to Global News’ requests for comment on Tuesday. Mayor Naheed Nenshi was also not available for comment.
WATCH: Controversy swirls over the art installation at the interchange of the Trans-Canada Highway at Bowfort Road. Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports
— With files from Alyssa Julie and Jill Croteau