Decommissioned CTrain car a dream canvas for Calgary artist

As Bryan Faubert tags CTrain car 2002 he says it's bittersweet — street art culture has its roots in tagging buildings and objects without permission but here he is with full control of a massive canvas.

Getting this decommissioned car to a lot in southeast Calgary was a feat. And now, it's all his to turn into a sculpture. 

Faubert apprenticed in New York, where he honed his hand and torch cutting skills, learning new techniques and working toward his Masters' of Fine Art thesis which he is completing at the University of Calgary.

Because of his roots in street art and graffiti he was inspired, and when he returned to Calgary, Faubert said he heard the City of Calgary was decommissioning its original U2 fleet.

Helen Pike/CBC

"The LRT car is like a stand-in for the New York subway system, essentially," Faubert said. "But then it builds its own narrative like it's my history. It's where I'm working … as soon as I heard about that, I reached out to the city and started a dialogue."

While the city's only charging $1 for these cars, buyers have to haul the hunks of metal off City of Calgary property.   

Initially, he was looking at $8,000 to $10,000 to pay a semi-truck operator, but after a lot of research and phone calls, he said he was able to find some savings. 

'Needs to be done'

"Yeah, you know, it's expensive, but it's one of those things where it just hits you like, this needs to be done," Faubert said. 

And now, the train is sitting in the NVRLND parking lot, a non-profit collective and studio in Ramsay. That's where he will work on it.  

Faubert plans to replace the windows with panels that will be lit from inside.

"They are torch-cut steel panels that I've prepared, and they're going to go in all the window sections and then I'm going to have solar-powered lighting which will direct the light from inside the LRT and then cast the shadows of the figures all the way around," he said. 

Helen Pike/CBC

The figures are created in a continuous line, Faubert explains. 

"I've taken the one line that graffiti artists use to tag or write their name, and I've subverted it into a figure," Faubert said. "It's a very automatic process of drawing … it's like really letting go and letting the work flow through me."

In the end, his work is about connection and experience. 

He expects to finish this project at the beginning of August.

After that? Faubert said he's looking into opportunities for the CTrain car to live as a public art piece, perhaps along the Green Line.

If it doesn't find a home…

"It's for my thesis and after the defence, if there's nowhere to put it, then we'll probably take the panels out and then it will get scrapped," Faubert said.

"I'm based in graffiti and street art, and that work is very ephemeral. So, you know, kind of ties in with all that it has a short life, sometimes it has a long life, but I see it being somewhere in the public in Calgary."