THE UTILITY BOX CORRIDOR MENTORSHIP PROGRAM
For this Public Art project from the City of Calgary, lead-artist and printmaker Eveline Kolijn collaborated with Alberta Printmakers and mentored 12 print-artists during the summer of 2016 to create hand-printed, fine art screen and relief prints, which were hand pasted with an innovative method on 12 traffic control utility boxes along 5 and 6 Avenue SW in downtown Calgary.
Eveline organised a series of workshops for the artist mentees in the studio of Alberta Printmakers, to explore suitable screenprint, linocut and woodcut techniques to paste on the boxes. A series of community engagement events were organised as well, to generate concepts and ideas for imagery on the boxes. We arrived at the general theme of People, Patterns, Places. In this theme, over 80 different prints were created, each printed multiple times and often in different colour versions. Under the guidance and art direction of Eveline Kolijn, these prints were combined, arranged and pasted on the boxes with an outdoor, UV and weather protective acrylic clearcoat.
Participating artist mentees are: Sylvia Arthur, Scott Baird, Samantha Charette, Claire Coutts, Graeme Dearden, Kathryn Dutchak, Jacqueline Huskisson, Mark Eadie, Marzieh Mosavarzadeh, Kaylin Obst, Sally Reesman, Helen Young.
The Utility Box Program started in 2010 as a pilot project initiated by The City of Calgary Roads. Initially conceived as a highly successful graffiti abatement measure, widespread popularity enabled the program to grow and become permanent in 2011. The City is now expanding the opportunity to include community partners and engage more artists and citizens. Since 2010, over 100 utility box public artworks have been created by local artists throughout Calgary. In 2015 the program took a corridor approach to create a stronger presence in the communities.
Cultural Faces and Economic Facets
Samantha Charette created two linocut portraits with elements of a narrative. The male portrait depicts Isaac Kendall Kerr, a historic figure and the president of the Eau Claire lumber mill, who had moved to Calgary from Wisconsin in 1916. The female portrait reflects contemporary Calgary, and is Jamie Black based out of Winnipeg, the founding artist of the Red Dress Project which has had a few exhibitions in Calgary. The two portraits together represent the collective of Calgary's history and culture, from a lumber mill business contributing to the economy to relevant dialogue based on an aesthetic response to a critical national issue.
The linocuts of the racehorses and lobsters with macaroni by Kathryn Dutchak are inspired by the project's community outreach component. Consulting within the community suggested a range of themes: from the Maritimes to the western aspect of Calgary's identity; the situation of affluence, and the need for positivity within the boom and bust nature of Alberta's economic climate.
The woodcuts for the sides of the box were created by Eveline Kolijn and are part of the façade of the Knox United Church, which stands in proximity of the box location.
Lens of Diversity
Kaylin Obst created woodcuts that explore the unique phenomenon of how the sky is viewed from the ground in Calgary's downtown core. In any city's downtown, much of the sky seems to extend onto the faces of the tall glass buildings and is distorted by the colour and warping of the glass and fragmented by the grid of the windows. Calgary is known for its awe-inspiring skies, and this piece shows a very urban perspective of them. The building crane is another unofficial yet characteristic symbol of urban Calgary.
Another theme that came out of the public engagement was the diversity of people in downtown Calgary. Sylvia Arthur created screenprints of imagined hybrid people such as The Crow man, Cowbird chick and Buffalo man. Eveline Kolijn created screenprints from sketches of people made on site.
On the sides of the box is another colour version of Eveline’s Knox United Church woodcut and linocut of the +15 windows
This box takes its inspiration from the fact that it is located next to a bicycle lane. Scott created a visual pun with figures that depicts the bicycle lane's activity (mobility) and the number of pedestrians seen in the area that were absorbed by their mobile phones. A local building's unique facade is used as a background pattern.
The sides of the box are screenprints by Eveline and play with the fun combinations you can create when you merge two bicycles into one.
Confluence of Rivers
In this project, we wanted to acknowledge in visual form that Calgary is situated on traditional Blackfoot Territory and Treaty 7 land. Eveline Kolijn and Kathryn Dutchak attended meetings with Elders and visited the Aboriginal Friendship Centre. Inspired by these encounters, Eveline created a woodcut that depicts a spiritual sense of place. The importance of the position of the confluence of the Bow and Elbow rivers, the biodiversity of the Prairie with important plants such as sweetgrass, sage and chokecherry, and the presence of First Nations and Metis people. The position of the box, opposite the courthouse with the statues representing a herd of bison, is also significant. For the sides, Eveline made a linocut with a grass pattern and on top of that a linocut is the logo of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee.
The crow and cowbird, created in linocut by Sylvia Arthur, will perch here and there on the utility boxes. During our public engagement many people said they wanted to see nature. A First Nations woman told me she thought we should have birds on the utility boxes and then exclaimed, “There should be crows!”
Quiet and Noisy
Artist: Jacqueline Huskisson
Quiet and Noisy is an exploration of voyeurism and the mundane. A desire for connection, a remedy to our own inadequacies, we look in on strangers at their most vulnerable. This piece is an attempt to show what the citizens of Calgary do when they think no one is looking. Through the walls we see the movers and shakers, and the calm and peaceful. We see in this piece what we can dream and what reality is behind those four walls.
Public and Private
In preparation for this project Sylvia Arthur walked the avenues where the utility boxes are located. She has always been awe stuck by the crisscrossing cranes that are constantly building the towers of Calgary. They were the inspiration for the utility box on 6 Ave. and 6 St and were created by a collage of screenprinted crane elements. The screenprinting was done with technical assistance of fellow mentee Graeme Dearden.
The concept for Claire Coutts’ portion of the utility box project was in collaboration with Sylvia Arthur. While researching, discussing with people in the area and loitering by our location, Sylvia and Claire noticed similar things. The area has a lot of pedestrian foot traffic, but few people who aren’t in transit to somewhere else. Claire began to think about the contrast of public and private for residents in a downtown setting. She created these linocuts of hands involved in domestic activity in contrast to Sylvia Arthurs imagery of industrial cranes skyline buildings, bridging the gap between the visible and invisible in an urban setting.
The Eau Claire Lumber Company
Close to the area of the utility box corridor are the condominiums of the Eau Claire neighborhood, which is built on reclaimed industrial land. One of the original businesses in this area was the sawmill from the Eau Claire and Bow River Lumber company. This large woodcut by Eveline tells the story of the lumber mill, from logging in the Kananaskis area, floating the lumber down the Bow river to Prince's island, to the sawmill in the City. The river also generated electricity for the lumber mill. The mill was relocated to heritage Park and can be seen there. Much of the wood was used for the railway stays of the developing Canadian Pacific Railway company.
The sides depict a mixture of wood and water pattern made by Eveline and are also sprinkled with the bird linocuts from Sylvia.
Blueprints of Neighborhood Memories
Artist: Sally Reesman
On arriving in Calgary from Chicago in the late seventies Sally was struck by the
honesty and generosity of the people living in Eau Claire neighborhood. No one locked
their doors even when leaving on vacation for weeks at a time. Neighbors borrowed
eggs or cups of sugar in the morning and returned them in the evening. As a stranger
walking down the street, she would be offered free tomatoes or zucchinis or bouquets
of extra flowers from the flourishing gardens. Some held homing pigeons on their
property. People faced the world just as they were. Living honestly in their skins and in
The approach that Helen and Mark took to creating the imagery for their utility box
project, was to carve large scale woodcuts that would be handprinted to form a
wraparound scene encompassing all 4 sides of the box. The overall layout of the piece
was inspired by wheat pasted street art, where artists create an image on paper and
paste it to a public wall or object. Street art has the ability to speak to the public,
utilizing site specific ideas that reflect aspects of the surrounding area.
The scene takes place in the interior and exterior of a coffee shop. The coffee shop
motif was chosen in order to highlight aspects of downtown culture and lifestyle. These
environments are places of business, but are also meeting points for people to come
together and form experiences, connections and conversation. The exterior of the shop
is host to a busker and his marionette. Street performers are a colourful example of
people engaging with the public. Encouraging interaction and playfulness that adds to
the vibrancy and influential core of a city. The busker's marionette is intended to
represent a younger version of himself, adding to the artists’ idea that there can be
innocence and naiveté portrayed through visual art.
Artists: Eveline Kolijn, members of the Public
At the Eau Claire Neighbour Day in 2016, participants from the public had the chance to create Styrofoam prints. A selection of these prints were pasted on this community box. They are prints made by children and adults. The traffic lights of the pedestrian crossing inspired Eveline for the linocut on the side of the box.
Destination Calgary is a joint work by Marzieh Mosavarzadeh and Eveline Kolijn, with
multiculturalism and diversity as theme. Travelling with Calgary’s LRT to different parts
of the city while listening to conversations in diverse languages helped conceive the
concept. For Marzieh, as a newcomer, it was very intriguing to create a patterns by
repetition of the word “Calgary” in as many languages as possible, in order to convey
the notion of diversity. She used Google Translate to discover variations of the City’s
name written in other languages and arranged the words in half circular patterns to
convey the idea of movement and traveling -even alluding to the rotational movement
of Earth and the galaxy. The text is created in screen print, accompanying by linocuts of
the CTrain in motion. The sides of the box are a patchwork of motifs from distinct
cultures, forming a multicultural quilt. This has been designed and screenprinted by
This recent utility box project with The Alberta Printmaker's Society and The City of Calgary gave Graeme a chance to explore how Calgary went about the task of making itself. Through the layering of recent transit information from the surrounding area and old business listings from the 1950 Henderson's Directory, Graeme created a repeating texture that showcases his impression of how Calgary came to be. Zoomed in, it is a mess of old and new things unevenly talking over each other. But, stepping back, that mess becomes the integral component of our richly textured city.
The colour selection by Graeme was prompted by the pink colour Eveline used in one of her versions of her bicycle screenprint. The use of the same pink colour creates a unity in this box design.
Eveline Kolijn is a printmedia and multidisciplinary artist, who lives and works in Calgary. She graduated from the Alberta College of Art + Design in 2008 and is the recipient of the Governor General’s Academic medal. Since graduating, Eveline has developed her visual arts career through exhibitions and residencies, public art projects, teaching and community development. She is a printmedia instructor for the School of Continuing Education at the Alberta College of Art + Design in Calgary, Canada. She is active on the boards of the This Is My City Art society and the Public Art Board of the City of Calgary.
Sylvia Arthur is a graduate of the Alberta College of Art and Design and returned to ACAD to study printmaking through an extended studies course. She has been creating visual art for over 30 years, but it is only in the recent past that she has emerged as a public artist.
Scott Baird is kind of a misanthrope who makes socially critical and politically charged artworks through drawing and printmaking. He is the former Studio Director of Alberta Printmakers, and has recently made plans to start sleeping in.
Samantha Charette is a visual artist from London Ontario and recent Bachelors of Fine Art graduate from the University of Alberta. Currently working and residing in Calgary Alberta, her interests include the identity of self, cultural identity, identity formation and site specificity. Recent initiatives include public art as well as in gallery exhibitions and an active involvement in the commercial and not-for-profit gallery and studio community in Calgary.
Claire Coutts is an emerging artist working in Calgary, Alberta. She graduated from the Alberta College of Art and Design from print media, her primary medium. Her work is concerned with explorations of the surreal and absurd within the artist’s imagination and embedded in the everyday.
Graeme Dearden is a Calgarian fine artist and writer working primarily in printmaking, flat glass processes, drawing, and visual poetry. He completed his Bachelor of Fine Arts from The Alberta College of Art + Design in 2015, majoring in glass. His work has been showcased in numerous visual and literary projects throughout Alberta and the United States. Generally, his work looks at methodology and how people go about the task of making artwork—or making anything for that matter.
Kathryn Dutchak is currently based out of Calgary, Alberta. She is a third generation Polish/Ukrainian Canadian who was born and raised in the Edmonton area. Her research is currently focused on exploring craftsmanship, minor art genres, heritage and storytelling.
Mark Eadie graduated from the Alberta College of Art + Design in 2009 from the Print Media department. His art mainly revolves around black and white imagery including pen and ink illustrations and carved woodblock prints. This allows him to create detailed and high contrast images with sharp lines and intricate patterning. Usually working on imagery from his mind, Mark takes inspiration from looking at the world around him; people, interactions, buildings and landscapes are influential in his work. Although he does not generally base his art on specific people or places, looking at Mark's imagery can give the viewer the feeling that they have seen the people he depicts, and have been to the spaces he has created. Mark is co-founder of art collective Ink Smashed Artists, which has allowed him to explore ways of merging his style with 2 other artists.
A 2011 graduate of Alberta of College of Art and Design, Jacqueline Huskisson is a visual artist now pursuing the Masters of Fine art degree at the Belfast School of Art in N. Ireland. Her art is an experience of the human condition using lowbrow concepts, exaggerated humour and cartoonish designs depicted through a variety of media such as, printmaking, installation, comics and animation. She is currently a Co-Director at Platform Arts Gallery.
Marzieh Mosavarzadeh has an MFA degree from University of Calgary. Her research examines ways of visualizing the notion of simultaneity in the lives of today’s migrants, in the sense of being between two cultures and multiple states of mind. She intends to show the shifts, construction and reconstruction, which take place in one’s identity as the result of immigration and living in a different culture, with the lens of simultaneity in identity, place, and language. She uses an interdisciplinary approach that includes time-based media, photography, printmaking, drawing, and text as means of investigating and narrating her story.
Kaylin Obst graduated from the University of Calgary's Art Department in 2014, where I focused my studies on printmaking and sculpture. My work tends to explore specific moods created by an environment I have experienced. They frequently show patterns in the world around me, especially those that indicate some kind of human interaction with the environment. My interest and studies in architecture are also a large influence on my work. The built environment and how it interacts with nature are very often a point of consideration and inspiration for my art.
Sally Reesman completed four years of study with the Alberta College of Art andDesign as a painting major, she received a BFA from the University of Calgary. She lives and works in Calgary. In her work she combines the world of pure illusion and metaphor with that of everyday perception and activity. She tends to merge abstraction and representation with the exaggeration of reality into caricature.
Helen Young graduated from the Alberta College of Art + Design in 2009, with a major in Print Media. Inspired by the grotesque, Helen primarily focuses on creating imagery that exaggerates physical representations of humans and animals while incorporating psychological elements. Utilizing forms of printmaking and pen and ink as her dominant mediums, Helen is able to achieve the detailed line work and playfulness she desires. Residing in Calgary, Helen has maintained an active presence in both the local music and arts communities. Illustrating for bands and organizations such as Sled Island Music Festival and Calgary's community radio station CJSW, Helen has been able to merge her two passions. Co-founding an art collective called Ink Smashed Artists, Helen has found success in exploring collaboration while still maintaining her own individual art practice.