Holding Fast: Public Art at Fire Headquarters
The Holding Fast artwork was commissioned as part of the Fire Headquarters construction project for the lobby wall measuring approximately 8 metres high (25 feet) by 5 metres (17 feet) wide. The Artist, Doug Driediger, was shortlisted and chosen by a project-specific selection panel of seven Calgarians. The selection panel also approved the artist’s concept. The project was completed in August 2018.
Holding Fast consists of a circular grouping of paintings that provide an understanding of the Fire Department’s history while also reflecting a memorial theme. Images transition from archival photography at the mural’s top to contemporary pictures on the bottom. Paintings include: Calgary’s historic Fire Station #1, firefighters in action (based on archival photography), the Honour Guard uniform trim, a vintage fire truck, and the Memorial bell used during the annual firefighter memorial ceremony.
Surrounding by the imagery described above, the mural’s central, anchor image depicts a current firefighter reaching up to grasp the hand of a historic firefighter – connecting the old with the new. The historic firefighter wears the mitt which was the standard kit in the early 20th century. This strong grip pose communicates the message “I’ve got you,” capturing the values of the Fire Department while also speaking to support in situations of physical danger as well as mental illness. The connection between past and present creates a memorial of lives lost but remembered.
The wall behind the artwork is marked with a stencil pattern inspired by common firefighting symbols: the Maltese Cross, the axe and the pike pole. Nine of the stencils are highlighted with a brass colour to represent the nine Calgary firefighters who have died in the line of duty.
Statement from the Concept Jury: "“Doug’s work and his approach embodies the Fire Department’s four values of Pride, Professionalism, Teamwork, and Respect. The artist meticulously and extensively engaged with all the stakeholders. He was receptive, respectful, thoughtful and compassionate."
Holding Fast, as seen from the 2nd floor of the Fire Headquarters building. Note the door at the bottom right for scale.
Holding Fast consists of 11 circular paintings. The approximate diameters of the paintings are:
- 2.5 metres (8 feet): 1 painting
- 1.5 metres (5 feet): 2 paintings
- 1.2 metres (4 feet): 3 paintings
- 0.9 metres (3 feet): 2 paintings
- 0.8 metres (2.5 feet): 2 paintings
- 0.6 metres (2 feet): 1 painting
Holding Fast: the Artist, Douglas Driediger, showing work in progress.
The Artist, Doug Driediger, completed in-depth research prior to developing his concept. His community engagement included:
- Focus group session with newly recruited firefighters and retired firefighters
- Participating in the Calgary Fire Department’s (CFD) Boot Camp
- Meeting with a representative of the Calgary firefighter’s union (the International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 255)
- Attending the Calgary Fire Department 2017 Memorial Ceremony at the Police Officers and Firefighters Tribute Plaza (as well as participating in the march from the Mewata Armory to the Plaza; and having impromptu discussions with members of the Honour Guard and retired firefighters)
- Interview with rep. and tour of the Firefighter Museum of Calgary
- One-on-one interviews with active members representing the Calgary Fire Department, including a Deputy Chief, and a Battalion Chief
- Guidance from the selection panel and concept juries, which included an active members of the Calgary Fire Department (CFD), two retired firefighters who were also retired members of the Honour Guard, and a representative from the Firefighter Museum of Calgary; as well as three artist jury members
The central, anchor image of Holding Fast
The jury’s statement at the time of the artist selection:
"With the location providing the opportunity for a large mural, we need an artist who has proven experience in painting on a massive scale. The sensitivity of the subject - a mural with a memorial theme in the Fire Headquarters – demands a mature artist used to working collaboratively with clients. The work of the selected artist, Doug Driediger, showed examples of attention to detail with historic imagery and figurative work we think will work well for this project."
Doug Driediger is a Calgary-based artist, muralist, and graphic designer who graduated from ACAD in 1980 with an honours diploma focusing on painting. He is also the Founder and Creative Director of Metrographics, a design and advertising studio that specializes in fine-art-based problem solving.
Doug’s career has a national reputation for excellence. He is a juried member of the Graphic Designers of Canada as well as with Canada’s prestigious National Watercolour society, the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour (CSPWC).
With a focus on large-scale public art, Doug is best known for his interpretive work for Parks Canada/Alberta Parks, as well as his iconic murals for CUPS, the Petroleum Club, and the Calgary Exhibition & Stampede in downtown Calgary. In total, he has completed over 40 murals throughout Western Canada. His art is included in several significant collections including a major purchase award by the Alberta Foundation of the Arts.