Reconciliation, community partnership and public art have come together to provide a vibrant street front on 4 Avenue this week with the unveiling of a unique installation Downtown.
The City of Lethbridge, through the Reconciliation Lethbridge Advisory Committee (RLAC), community partner TELUS, Heart of Our City Committee (HOC) and Public Art Committee put out a call for Indigenous artists to create artworks which reflect the theme of the 5th Annual Reconciliation Week: Voice and Representation. Artists Natoyihkii (Cheyenne McGinnis). and Nato'yi'kina'soyi (Hali Heavy Shield) were the successful applicants.
"I really hope that my artwork instills pride and confidence to the youth trying to learn Blackfoot," says artist Natoyihkii (McGinnis). "When applying to this opportunity I wanted to showcase the strength of women in our community and also showcase the language. With this brightly coloured piece, I hope it brings joy to the pedestrians of Lethbridge and helps them to learn a bit of the language."
Installed on the windows of the TELUS building downtown, the public art project is on full display for residents and visitors alike.
"We are honoured to share this space in downtown Lethbridge to showcase Hali Heavy Shield and Cheyenne McGinnis's art," said Theresa Lynn, General Manager for Southern Alberta. "TELUS is committed to supporting the artistic practices of Indigenous Peoples, while being mindful of the historic role organizations have played in the misappropriation of Indigenous art and culture. As part of our Reconciliation journey we strive to create space to learn more about our shared history and commit to take action going forward."
"I want people to feel inspired and hopeful when they view my work," says artist Nato'yi'kina'soyi (Heavy Shield). "We're living in wounded times, so it's more important than ever to make Blackfoot language and culture visible in the city."
Reconciliation Lethbridge Advisory Committee Co-Chair, Treena Tallow, says she hopes the artwork's vibrancy catches people's attention and prompts questions and conversation in the community.
"We're thrilled to see both Hali and Cheyenne's work on display and hope the community takes time to appreciate the meaning behind each piece," says RLAC Co-Chair, Treena Tallow. "By having this beautiful artwork on such a public-facing space, we hope it sparks conversation about Reconciliation and brings focus to this year's theme, voice and representation."
This initiative is one of many taking place across the city in order to advance the conversation around Truth and Reconciliation in our community. In addition to the ongoing work with MMIWG Recommendations and Work Plan, there are several upcoming City initiatives underway including the Indigenous Placemaking Strategy and Public Realm Audit, Indigenous Awareness Training Program for all City staff and Indigenous Cultural Centre (ICC) Governance and Operations Planning.
Reconciliation Week 2021 will play host to a variety of opportunities for education and engagement under the theme of voice and recognition. There are both virtual and in-person events being held by many community organizations across the city. For more information on these events, head to Lethbridge.ca/indigenousrelations or to the RLAC Facebook page.