Two downtown Red Deer alleyways are coming alive with colour thanks to the talent of mural artists from across the city, province and the country.
The first of 15 murals by 14 artists was completed in mid-June, and painting will continue through August to prepare for the Meet the Street arts and culture festival in early September to kickoff the month-long celebration of Alberta Culture Days in Red Deer.
On Wednesday, Montreal artist Caitlin McDonagh was in the process of painting a serene and lush green forest in 50.5 Alley, north of Ross Street.
She said it’s ironic considering the forest fires in British Columbia.
“That’s been an interesting process to be painting this forest while there is forest fire smoke in the air. I’m just hoping it will be a colourful surprise for people when they’re walking around, hopefully checking out the businesses now that things are starting to normalize,” said McDonagh who is originally from Victoria, B.C.
“Murals and public art really makes art accessible to everybody no matter who they are. To me it’s really special. Not only are more people actually seeing my work, but it’s making it something that’s a shared experience for everybody.”
Red Deer Indigenous artist Ryan Jason Allen Willert completed a mural in 49.5 Alley, south of Ross Street, depicting the magpie.
“With this mural, I found it really important to incorporate the magpie because the magpie is really significant for our people. It’s an animal of luck, but at the same time it’s an animal that is, how can I say, it’s not respected the way it should be. And I think a lot of people can resonate with that. They just don’t feel like they fit in,” Willert said.
He said at times both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people can feel like they are not adequate, but everyone has a place in life.
The downtown mural project was developed through a collaboration with the city, and downtown businesses and agencies.
The city has contributed $200,000 for the murals, as well as lights and speakers to enhance the experience. Businesses and agencies have made in-kind donations.
“What we were looking for is to activate two of our alleys that were seeing quite a bit of negative activity. What we have seen in other cities is the greater activation of spaces, and the more legitimate uses that go on, that there is a decrease of those negative activities,” said Bobby-Jo Stannard, community development superintendent with the city.
She said Ross Street Patio is a great example of a site that is already bringing people of diverse backgrounds together in the downtown.
“We’re really trying to bring the downtown alive.”