The Griff

The faces of downtown

Downtown

The faces of downtown

MacEwan alumni create mural as tribute to the unseen members of our community

Although the weather has taken a turn towards a cold, Canadian winter, local artists Layla Folkmann and Lacey Jane Wilburn can be found hard at work creating a masterpiece of colour and creativity just north of Rogers Place by the MacEwan LRT station. Folkmann and Wilburn are both MacEwan alumni and are in the process of completing a massive mural that consists of five portraits, which is intended to pay tribute to the people of the Boyle Street Community Centre.

The project began on Sept. 21, and is expected to be completed as early as Oct. 26. Both Folkmann and Wilburn graduated from MacEwan in 2009 with a studio arts and fine arts diploma, respectively. Since they’ve met, the two artists have worked on nearly 40 projects together; however, the message in their newest collaboration is a unique one.

The unfinished mural features Chubby Cree, a powwow singer. The mural features faces of the surrounding community.
The unfinished mural features Chubby Cree, a powwow singer. The mural features faces of the surrounding community.

“We really wanted to focus on marginalized communities in the city, which are usually the people who don’t get the loudest voice, especially next to big projects like Rogers Place,” Wilburn said. “This is sort of our most socially-engaged project. We always try to focus on the importance of art in public places.”

As this new art piece, titled “Pillars of the Community,” is so close to MacEwan University, both alumni agree this has made an impact on their artistic decisions in moving forward with the project. The artists hope the mural stands as a testament of the success of MacEwan students, and will go on to inspire future students, especially those in the fine arts program – considering the program will be downtown next year.

“I used to look at a lot of other successful artists and street artists and think, ‘Wow! I hope that one day can be me!’ so I hope that we can show that for other students,” Wilburn said.

The mural is a great representation of the amazing talent of MacEwan alumni and ultimately encourages students to pursue their passions, just as these artists have. Folkmann and Wilburn’s art gives voice to those who may go unseen in the shadow of the new arena, and “give a place to be noticed and appreciated,” as Wilburn said.

“Gretzky, he gets statues and all that stuff, (but) we want to do the average people in the area,” Folkmann said. “We want to represent this neighbourhood.”

“It’s more human that way too,” Wilburn added, smiling.

The project is expected to be completed soon — and best of all, the mural is on display walking distance from MacEwan’s City Centre Campus. You can view Folkmann’s other work on her website, and Wilburn’s other work on hers.

Cover photo by Kyle Muzyka.