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April 21, 2019

The Story of the New Mural In Inglewood That Spans Two Blocks

Inglewood’s latest addition is a massive work of art that reflects on gentrification, art, community and history.

The longest stretch of mural is on 9 Avenue S.E. It continues around the corner on the hoarding boards on 9 Street S.E.
Photo by Andrew Guilbert

When the Inglewood’s Frosst Books and Pith Gallery were torn down a few months ago to make way for a series of new rental spaces, it left a void in the arts community of the south east neighbourhood.

But, thanks to lot owner Jim Hill, that void has been at least partially filled with the addition of a mural that spans two blocks on a stretch of 9 Ave. S.E. But, for Daniel J. Kirk, the artist Hill commissioned to beautify the hoarding boards, filling a mural that size is no small task.

Kirk, an artist with the Blank Page Studio in Hillhurst, decided to draw from the sites’ past for his initial inspiration. He talked to previous tenants of the space and used giant, wheat-pasted images from the location’s past and included art from Pith Gallery artists, pictures of old buildings and maps to pepper the piece.

“Looking at a canvas that’s two city blocks, the wheat paste was a nice place to start. That helped me get over blank canvas syndrome and not knowing where to start,” says Kirk. “Starting the whole thing with a conversation, getting a few people excited and involved, and then letting ideas naturally form out of that. That’s what informed what exists now.”

Titled “Studious”, the mural represents a layering of time, as well as the stratification and history of the land it rests on. “As we tear something down and build something new on top, there’s this layering of memory, and the trace of something – a lasting legacy of something – that’s going to inform what happens next in a way,” says Kirk.

He hopes the piece, which took the better part of two weeks for him and the occasional friend to create, stands as a reminder of where that space has been and raises a few questions about the layering of history in Calgary. “I wanted to create something that was interesting enough that people might stop and pause, whether it’s just the colours or the integration of the content of other people’s work, like Jennifer Creighton’s houses or Leslie Bell’s yarn fabric collage pieces,” says Kirk. “I started with that and started layering out this explosion of marks and colours. It’s like they’re these little incubators and they radiate out.”

For Jim Hill, founder of the Esker Foundation and the man who commissioned the mural, it’s a way to give back to his community as well as spark a conversation.

“I believe in Inglewood and am quite invested in Inglewood, so I want it to look as attractive as it can,” he says. “The interesting thing is you attract a lot of graffiti and posters on blank hoarding walls, but somehow when people see decent art on the walls, people respect it more and you attract less graffiti, so there’s a plus too.”

Temporary structures like the hoarding board have an undetermined shelf life, but for Hill, the new building that will eventually go up doesn’t mean the end for “Studious”.

“I’d like to do what we did in the Atlantic Art Block and reuse the work in the underground parkade for the building. I might leave one or two pieces up in public spaces – the lobby area in the building perhaps – we’ll see how they weather between now and when the building is built,” says Hill.

Photo by Andrew Guilbert

The longest stretch of mural is on 9 Avenue S.E. It continues around the corner on the hoarding boards on 9 Street S.E.

Photo by Andrew Guilbert

Many of the wheat pasted images served as jumping off points for Kirk, who used paint to meld everything into a cohesive, continuous work of art.

Photo by Andrew Guilbert

The Bottle Depot is one of many buildings and sites tied to the lot that is represented on the mural.

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