Indigenous public art

Indigenous art in Calgary

Indigenous culture and voices are important to our past, present and future. We’re taking steps to support reconciliation by improving opportunities for Indigenous artists to consult on, participate in and influence public art.

Art created by Indigenous artists

We are working to increase opportunities for Indigenous artists to create public art in Calgary.

Click on each photo to learn more about the artist and artwork.

Calls for Indigenous art and artists are released on our opportunities for artists page and in our monthly public art newsletter.

Indigenous curators

We are providing more opportunities for Indigenous artists to curate exhibits. This allows connections to be built between local government, the arts community and Indigenous groups.

Jessica McMann

In summer 2020, we welcomed Jessica McMann to the public art team as an Indigenous curator.

Jessica is an Alberta-based Cree (Cowessess, SK) curator and artist (musician, dancer, visual artist). She's also a classically trained flutist with a Bachelor of Music from the University of Calgary and a Master of Fine Arts from Simon Fraser University.

In addition to creating traditional beadwork and drums, she also makes immersive sound art videos. Her recent compositions and soundscapes explore Indigenous identity and history. She's co-founder and co-director of Wild Mint Arts, an Indigenous arts company.

Although her art is primarily music and dance, Jessica's artwork is exhibited at Urban Shaman Gallery and Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. Her curatorial practice is embedded in Indigeneity, relationality and advocacy.

She works closely with the Moh'kinsstis Public Art Guiding Circle, public art program staff, and the Indigenous Relations Office to bring Indigenous knowledge, histories, cultures, languages, traditions, worldviews, and ways of knowing into the public art program.

Sophia Lebessis

In consultation with the Nunavut-based elder community, Inuit art gallery owner Sophia Lebessis is working to curate a travelling collection of sculptures, prints and textiles that both respects and reflects the rich art and culture of the Inuit people of Canada.

Sophia is Inuit on her mother's side and Greek on her father's. She grew up in Arviat, Nunavut, learning about the world of Inuit art and how to promote the works of highly collectible and influential artists.

With her keen eye for art and experience in sourcing art, from creation to distribution, Sophia has a unique approach to contributing to the future of Inuit art that focuses on education and entrepreneurship to transform appreciation for Canada's national art form.

Indigenous initiatives in public art

Current programs

The Land is Home at Inglewood Bird Sanctuary
In 2022 as part of The Land is Home project, the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary will celebrate Indigenous connection to the land by exhibiting artworks from Blackfoot, Tsuut’ina and Stoney Nakoda artists. This project acknowledges that First Nations people have cared for these lands since time immemorial and served as the original stewards of the places we now enjoy as parks. It aims to teach us that protecting and honouring the land is universally important across all Indigenous cultures.

Indigenous PlaceKeeping program
2021 began the pilot year for our Indigenous Place Keeping program with Kalum T Dan being the first artist to have work exhibited.  The Past, Present and Future art pieces will be on display for two years. Moving forward, this program will continue to provide opportunities for more Indigenous artists to showcase their work in the atrium of the municipal building. Multi-disciplinary, inter-disciplinary, and all other art forms will be welcome and created by Indigenous artists representing all Treaty 7 nations, Metis Region 3 and urban Indigenous Calgarians. 

Moh’kinsstis Public Art Guiding Circle
Since 2017, the Moh′kinsstis Public Art Guiding Circle has supported The City’s public art program to respond and act appropriately in its relationship with Indigenous communities and citizens. The Guiding Circle is made up of Indigenous artists of different disciplines, from a variety of communities and who bring diverse perspectives.

Previous programs

Benefit-Driven Procurement, Public Art and Indigenous Peoples
Beginning in 2019, we worked with our procurement team on a project to help increase the number of Indigenous artists applying for, and being selected for, public art projects. This 14-month project aimed to  enable long-term sustainable relationships among The City of Calgary and Indigenous Peoples. It focused on improving processes for reaching out to artists in Indigenous communities and finding the best way to commission them.

Education and field guides
In 2019, a field guide and an education guide were produced in response to the Wolfe and the Sparrows project. They were written and edited by Indigenous writer and art educator, Steve Gin, to help educators and grades 5-9 students explore this and related artworks.

Street Art Program for Youth
The 2019 Street Art Program for Youth brought together Indigenous artists, Indigenous Elders and Calgary youth. They shared teachings and explored common values with the youth Over a six-week program. This collaboration resulted in the mural, Our Window on the wall of the Downtown Calgary Mosque.

Indigenous Artist in Residency program
In 2017, the Indigenous Artist in Residency program invited Treaty 7 and local urban Indigenous artists to participate in a three-month long residency. Artist Danielle (Danni) Black, also known as Sui Taa Kik (Sue-Da-Gee), Marina Crane (Hapan Kinyewakan) and Sheldon First Rider were selected to take part. The program was designed to foster a supportive environment for Indigenous artists in Calgary. It also provided dedicated research time for Indigenous artists interested in working within a municipal government context and in pursuing public art as part of their practice.

About reconciliation

Learn more about the Calgary Aboriginal Urban Affairs Committee (CAUAC).

Have a question? Contact the public art team.