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Calgary tunnel mural that deterred graffiti for 5 years has been removed

Click to play video: 'Calgary tunnel mural that deterred graffiti for 5 years has been removed'
Calgary tunnel mural that deterred graffiti for 5 years has been removed
WATCH: It was art that managed to stop vandalism in a northwest Calgary park for five years but the city is now removing the mural because it’s recently been covered in graffiti. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, the artist has an interesting take on his art being vandalized and removed. – Dec 5, 2022

The pedestrian tunnel under 14 Street by Confederation Park in northwest Calgary used to be illuminated by a colourful mural. It’s now regressed to the original dull grey.

The only colours in the tunnel on Monday were from sparks as city crews removed the last remnants of the art that was painted five years ago.

“For many years, the tunnel was perfect,” said Yvonne Brouwers, who regularly walks through Confederation Park.

“Nobody put graffiti over top of the mural. Then, just recently, we saw graffiti go over top. We talk about the mural every time we come here and we thought: ‘That’s really sad that there’s graffiti now,'” Brouwers said.

“We loved the mural. It’s beautiful. It’s real art and it made this tunnel special.”

Two murals were created in Confederation Park — one under 14th Street the other in the 10th Street pedestrian tunnel.

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The murals were commissioned by the city as part of the Street Art for Youth Program and completed in 2017.

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AJA Louden was the lead artist and mentor for this piece.

He led a group of youths in workshops that focused on the tools and techniques of urban muralism and street art.

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The city says this year the 14th Street mural was vandalized beyond repair, and the decision was made to decommission it. The 10th Street mural was not damaged.

Louden isn’t surprised or disappointed that his art was covered with graffiti and ultimately removed. He said some of his work was inspired by the graffiti that was in the tunnel before.

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“I don’t take it personally at all. It’s just a natural home for that type of art and that type of expression and that’s what that tunnel was full of before we got down there.

“So I really couldn’t take it too personally if people still found that as a home to try and be creative, or maybe found some urge to respond to what they saw on the wall already,” Louden said.

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The city said the artwork at the site has had a positive impact on the community and “has been, for the most part, effective at reducing graffiti,” according to Julie Yepishina-Geller Cavanagh, the city’s public art liaison.

“There’s certainly a school of thought that those who put graffiti on walls won’t put graffiti on other people’s artwork, or for that matter, other people’s graffiti,” said Ward 7 Coun. Terry Wong. “So having artwork there seem to be a bit of a deterrent.”

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Renowned graffiti artist completing ‘world’s tallest painted mural’ in downtown Calgary

Louden said part of what he likes about street art is that it’s not forever.

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“Sometimes our idea of art is you paint something on the wall and that thing stays exactly the way you painted it for the rest of its life span. But when you see graffiti or street art, the wall is constantly changing.

“It’s a graffiti art gallery that’s constantly rotating. I think that’s really exciting and invigorating.”

The city says the murals were commissioned with the intention of having a five-year lifespan and there are no immediate plans for its replacement.

“Although we have no current plans for another project in that space, we welcome ideas from members of the community who might like to partner with an artist to replace the mural,” said Yepishina-Geller Cavanagh.

“For example, the community association could initiate a project and the public art team would help connect them to the right people at the city for approvals.”

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Louden is excited to see what will light up the tunnel down the road.

“I would love to see more spaces like that be turned into opportunities for artists of all kinds to get an experience with painting to scale. Murals have become a really popular movement now and artists need a space where they can learn this art form.

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“Even just learning how to paint something in that tunnel can be really helpful for young emerging artists,” Louden said.

Back in 2017, he led a group of youths aged 12 to 17 in workshops that focused on the history, culture, tools and techniques of urban muralism and street art.

“I’d love to see this to remain a home for community art because that’s what that mural was about in the beginning,” Louden said.

“It was myself collaborating with a group of youth and a local poet to create something new together.”

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