Paint the Rails - iWeek Workshop

Facilitators briefly described the objective of Paint the Rails; telling our local stories through art and dialogue.  Participants heard about previous community engagement events that helped guide us to the theme of the University mural: telling local stories of the land, animals and water.

Our artist team (AJA and Carla) shared the sketches for the mural and talked about the vision they came up with based on community input.  In particular they pointed to the knowledge and stories shared with them by Dwayne Donald who helped them identify the animals to focus on (Sturgeon, Bear, Wolf, Buffalo, Woodpecker and Beaver).  Dwayne’s focus on the history of the Papaschase Cree, the history of the Rossland Flats and how it ties into the greater story of the founding of Edmonton was instrumental in our teams understanding of what to include in their artistic retelling that often gets missed in other narratives.  

Using this as a jumping off point for further conversation we utilized milestones from our Timeline Activity to talk about our lack of access to Indigenous histories and how policies like the Indian Act have dispossessed and disempowered Indigenous peoples from the outset.  The hope is that by incorporating these narratives into a mural in such a public space we can help efforts towards education and reconciliation.  Many of our participants were International students who had very little knowledge of Canada’s darker side and it’s instances of unjust treatment towards its first peoples.  2 of our participants from Costa Rica and Brazil reflected on some of the similarities in their countries related to the treatment of Indigenous communities, noting that expropriation of land for resource extraction and threats/violence and indifference are common across countries (although to differing extents).  We also talked about resistance and what that looks like in rural/remote settings as opposed to urban ones.  Our discussion touched upon the differences between worldviews that value the land/water/animals as sacred teachers/relatives and and those that don’t.  Hopefully this mural can help to honour the former, and contribute to shifting the conversation.

Moving on to the artistic portion, we were able to guide participants to use pieces of paper and gel medium to create texture and colours on the Beaver and Sturgeon panels.  This activity, intended to be an accessible and easy way for public participation, was a big hit!  Participants enjoyed taking part in critical discussion and contributing to the overall vision of the University mural.   

Panels projected to be complete by February 23, 2018 and installed by late February/early March.


Neximar Alarcon