Client: City of Edmonton
Location: Edmonton, AB, Canada
Completion date: 2021
Artwork budget: $295,500
Cassandra Garneau, Madhu Kumar, Mackenzie Grad, B Garneau Ziemann I, David Zhang, Mathew Lapierre, Sadie George, Carmen Beaton, Sarah Timewell, Jesse Goddard, Evan Obey, Anthony C, Larissa Kitchemonia, Sylvia Ziemann, AJA Louden, Wade Stamp, Matthew Cardinal, Trevor Peters
Edmonton’s 260-metre Tawatinâ Bridge features 500 paintings of the surrounding river valley’s flora and fauna, and the First Nations, Métis, and settler histories of the area. Bridging the city, the series of acrylic paintings on dibond vary in size from 6″ for the smallest painting all the way up to 4′ x 24′ for the largest painting. The overall dimensions of the installation are 5 x 250 meters. Together the paintings show the intertwined lives of the people and the non-human beings who live and travel through here. The artist’s meetings with First Nations Elders, knowledge keepers, and Métis citizens, and numerous visits to the valley since childhood, are the backbone of these paintings. Artist David Garneau, with support from a team of First Nations, Métis, Black, Asian, and artists of European ancestry, captured Edmonton’s four seasons and complex histories. The huge expanse and collage-like format of the work allowed the artist to combine a variety of images that would not suit a conventional mural.
The Valley Line South East Light Rail Transit Project is a Private-Public Partnership (P3), with artworks integrated into the transit infrastructure of each stop, station and landmark, including the new Tawatinâ Bridge. The goal of the Public Art Plan for the Valley Line was that artworks would reflect the diversity and character of the communities served by the line. This artwork is part of a series of artworks integrated into the infrastructure of the rail line. For each landmark, it was required that artists or artist teams collaborate or consult with local communities to inform their final artwork.
For this project, the artist David Garneau proposed over five hundred paintings to create an immersive experience as pedestrians cross the river. The pedestrian corridor on the underside of the train bridge lends itself to a closer, more intimate, public art experience, enabling multiple ways to read the art: as a cohesive experience, or as individual artworks telling their own story.
To create the more than 500 paintings, artist David Garneau worked with a variety of stakeholders and cultural organizations to gather stories that were then translated into paintings. Garneau met with First Nations Elders and Knowledge Keepers, and Métis citizens, and worked alongside a team of First Nations, Métis, Black, Asian, and artists of European ancestry, to capture Edmonton’s four seasons and complex histories. Working closely with Elders and Indigenous knowledge keepers was particularly important to determine what should be represented. Garneau was interested in making a visual index to Indigenous story, history, and knowledge that can be unpacked and given voice by story keepers for years to come. Additionally, Garneau drew inspiration from his many visits to the River Valley since childhood and studied the artifacts from the Indigenous material culture collection of the Royal Alberta Museum which provided inspiration for colour schemes and designs.
Garneau explains that each picture is a prompt to storytelling: “There are well-known histories, lesser-known family tales, sacred stories, hidden messages, and provocative combinations. The images are for everyone, but the stories belong to those who know, keep, and share them. I have heard the stories but will not write them down. They are not mine to share. I hope their keepers will visit here, share their stories, and make these paintings live.” All partners of the project include: David Garneau and artists (Cassandra Garneau, Madhu Kumar, Mackenzie Grad, B Garneau Ziemann I, David Zhang, Mathew Lapierre, Sadie George, Carmen Beaton, Sarah Timewell, Jesse Goddard, Evan Obey, Anthony C, Larissa Kitchemonia, Sylvia Ziemann, AJA Louden, Wade Stamp, Matthew Cardinal, Trevor Peters), The Edmonton Arts Council, and TransEd, Dialog/CTP, and The City of Edmonton.