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June 26, 2019

You Can Vote on Two Murals for a New Development in Calgary

In the midst of the City’s public art spending freeze, one community can expect to see two new, large-scale works within the next two years.

There’s a new development going up in Marda Loop and you can help decide what it’s going to look like. Courtyard 33 (CY33) by Rndsqr has commissioned artists to submit designs for two murals — one visible from the street and an immersive one in its central courtyard — that will be voted on ahead of the projected move-in dates in early 2021.

The contest came along shortly ahead of the City of Calgary’s decision to renew the public art freeze for an additional year while it considers further improvements to the system. Business-run art commissions should not be confused as interchangeable with publicly funded art, residents and artists are nonetheless pleased at the prospect of two new murals. Find out how this unique selection process works, learn more about the artists and their submissions and meet a few residents to hear their thoughts on it all.

How it Works

This rendering shows where one of two murals will live upon the completion of CY33. Image courtesy of Rndsqr.

Rndsqr (pronounced “round square”) wanted to do things a little differently with its latest development. For the murals, the company made a request for proposals on mural designs. Once that step was complete, they internally narrowed 25 designs down to 10 to present to the public.

Now, the artwork is in the voting phase on the CY33 website where anyone with an opinion can have their say. You can click each piece to read a short artist bio and project description to give you some insight on what the artists’ concepts are. Once the voting closes in early August 2019, the top four highest-voted pieces will move on to the final phase, where a jury made up of residents and industry experts will select the two murals.

The interesting thing about this model is that it eschews two of the most common complaints about public art: that it is too controlled by gatekeepers and, conversely, that it comes to down a “popularity contest.” By having three phases of elimination, differing perspectives can each hold a degree of decision-making power in the process. One expert in the final decision jury is Peter Schryvers, director of public art with the Beltline Neighbourhood Association (having run the BUMP project) and a senior planner with the City of Calgary. When he reviews submission for BUMP, whether or not the artist has enough experience to execute a concept is top of mind. But it’s not just nuts and bolts efficiency that matters when picking a piece.

“You have to look at what they’ve done and what they propose and ask, ‘does it speak to you?'” he says. “Is it something that you find appealing? That you think that other people will enjoy? Obviously, everyone has different opinions, but what it really comes down to is: does the art speak to you?”

Who the Contenders Are

Top row (L-R): Ben Arceaga, Bradley Harms, Cassie Suche, Curtis Van Charles, David Brunning. Bottom row (L-R): James Wyper, Kalum Teke Dan, Katie Green & Daniel Kirk, Kriss Janik, Kyle Metcalfe.

To find out more about what inspired these designs and the artists’ logic behind submitting them for a public space, we talked to both Cassie Suche, 24, and Kriss Janik, 29.

Suche says that her artwork comes partly from her fascination with continuous patterns and repetition. These are a constant in her work and can already be seen on the Aylmer Nelson mural in Inglewood. Suche is currently studying in Leeds, U.K. and says her design “aims to encourage mindfulness, inviting viewers to contemplate their interaction with the space they are in, and the energy that they release and encounter each moment.”

Janik has also done mural work through his role as a program coordinator with Prospect Human Services. However, he has a slightly more literal intention for his art — he hopes that the outstretched arms will encourage people to hug a loved one in front of the mural or simply capture a selfie with a pantomime embrace. “There have been countless scientific studies that show the health benefits of hugging. I hope that this design can encourage others to express their affection more regularly,” he says.

Meet the Neighbours

Both Maria Dardano and Brittany Leung are twenty-something first-time home buyers set to move into CY33 upon its completion. Dardano, 25, says she picked it in part because she likes the walkability of the area and that it was much more affordable than she had expected (prices started at $239,800 and remaining units begin at $305,700). Though only recently having graduated university, she’s able to afford her first home on her salary as a restaurant manager and freelance communications professional.

Leung, 29, also cited the location as a primary factor in purchase. In her case, she was specifically looking for a community where neighbours aren’t isolated and have the chance to get to know one another. As a volunteer coordinator for a church, it comes as little surprise that Leung is something of a people person.

The two also agree on their excitement for the murals. Both say that this component had only a minority stake in their decision to purchase, but Leung describes it as a “perk” and Dardano says she’s excited to see who wins. Asked what qualities they most want the mural to have, Dardano says having something that meshes with its surroundings is important. Similarly, Leung hopes it will be something that everyone in the building can enjoy. Both say they have favourites, but wouldn’t be disappointed with any of the designs.

About Rndsqr

Rndsqr was founded by brothers Alkarim and Afshin Devani in 2016 and has won awards including a Mayor’s Urban Design Award for previous community-minded housing development projects. Alkarim says that the design for CY33 always included fostering a place for congregation, and that art felt like a logical fit to encourage that aspect. “Public art has such an important part in building great communities, and we feel like the onus should partly be on good developers and architects,” he says.

Poster-size versions of the designs are now on display on the Marda Loop location of Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters and Una Pizza + Wine on 17th Ave. S.W. Online voting concludes in early August 2019, and the final decision takes place during a panel at cSpace on September 19.

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