Calgary artists donate work to brighten new homes for city's vulnerable

Artwork by Mayb, one of more than 50 artists who donated to the project. (Terri Trembath/CBC - image credit)
Artwork by Mayb, one of more than 50 artists who donated to the project. (Terri Trembath/CBC - image credit)

Residents moving into the once-vacant Neoma building in downtown Calgary are receiving a special house warming gift — art, donated by local artists, to hang on the wall and to keep when they move on.

It's part of a project called Art is the Heart of a Home, an initiative that aims to brighten the walls of the recently repurposed office building downtown that now consists of affordable housing units for vulnerable Calgarians.

Wendy Cundall, project manager with Homespace, the charity that converted the building on Seventh Avenue and Sixth Street southwest — formerly known as Sierra Place — said new tenants will be able to pick from more than 150 original pieces of art.

Each kid moving in can choose a poster as well, also donated by Canadian and local artists.

"We really are hoping it brings them a sense that this is their home, and that they have something beautiful that they've chosen themselves that fits their lifestyle and taste," said Cundall.

Terri Trembath/CBC
Terri Trembath/CBC

The initiative came from Linda French, a volunteer and artist who runs the online Plaid Moose Gallery, after she saw news of the office conversion and wanted to add some positivity.

"I just really wanted to do something that told people in the community coming off of homelessness that they mattered," said French.

"It's almost like putting a rainbow or something into someone's home."

WATCH | Why art will feature prominantly in these affordable housing units:

French was amazed at the community response. More than 50 artists donated work, collecting enough pieces for tenants in the future.

There are 82 housing units in the Neoma building, as well as a common art and activity room.

Terri Trembath/CBC
Terri Trembath/CBC

Calgary-based artist Natasha Olson, who goes by the name Mayb, donated both a poster and a painting to the project. She's one of more than 50 artists who donated work.

"I could really be empathetic with what the project was trying to do," she said.

"With the poster, I was thinking about when I was a kid and these images I would see and they really stuck with me and became who I was today, so I wanted to make something maybe you could get lost in and remember later."

Most of all, she hopes her artwork is uplifting for people moving in to a new home.