A park without a name: Calgary’s former James Short Park hosts pop-up artwork

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A park without a name: Calgary’s former James Short Park hosts pop-up artwork
WATCH: There's a new temporary art installation set up at a downtown park that's about to get a new name. Seven banners display quotes from members of the Calgary-Chinese community, processing a history of racism against the Chinese population in the city. Sarah Offin reports. – Oct 25, 2022

“James Short was a racist.”

“The name of one park is not enough to honour all the founding families of Chinatown.”

“Time doesn’t heal anything. It just makes a generation forget.”

These are just some of the quotes displayed on banners in what was James Short Park in downtown Calgary.

“This is a symbolic place for us to heal,” said community advocate Fung Ling Feimo.

Feimo was one of those voices from Calgary’s Chinese community heard by Annie Wong. She was the artist in residence during community discussions with the City of Calgary. For over three years, the city has been working with the community in the development of what the city is calling Tomorrow’s Chinatown.

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Wong’s temporary art installation — seven banners, written in both English and Chinese — represent pieces of those often difficult conversations as the city moves to rename the park.

“Formally known as James Short Park and Parkade, renaming this site on the boundary of Chinatown addresses the historic harm caused by racial discrimination against Chinese Canadians,” said Jennifer Thompson, Manager of Arts and Culture at the City of Calgary.

“I was very grateful that we were able to carve out our own space. And our own opportunity to process these feelings and these histories with each other,” said Wong.

“From its founding in 1885, Chinatown has been in three different locations in Calgary. Displacement and racial discrimination forced the Chinese community to move as they struggled to set down roots,” said the city on its website.

James Short petitioned against the construction of the first Chinese-owned commercial building in 1910.

“When the park and parkade were named after him in 1991, his racist words and actions were not considered.”

The art installation will remain in place until Friday. The proposal for a new park name will be made at city council on Nov. 1.

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