High school students paint mural in Beltline to celebrate Black History Month
If you happen to be walking along 16 Avenue S.W. in the Beltline, take a peek inside the West Elm furniture store.
Through the window, you'll see a mural painted along one of its walls in honour of Black History Month.
It was created by two Grade 12 visual arts students, Marie-Eve Makoumbou and Maria Tonta, from École de la Rose sauvage, a francophone secondary school in northwest Calgary.
"[It's] a colourful mural that includes three Black women and each one of them has different colours," Makoumbou said in an interview with the Calgary Eyeopener.
"Our ideas really came ... based on our environment, and it really came on the spot because despite us having a sketch and everything, we just kind of went with what felt right to us."
It's the second year the store has partnered with the high school students to create a mural for the month of February.
Todd Anderson, the students' educational assistant, said he'd discovered the opportunity through his sister, a West Elm employee, and he jumped at the chance to get his students involved.
"When we can do something that's outside of the walls of the school and reach out to people … I just tell them that they can change the world and that they can make a difference. And that's what I feel we're doing."
The store only planned to keep the mural up for the month of February, at which time it would be painted over. The school and the students knew their work would be temporary before participating.
But the general manager of the Beltline West Elm location, Charlene Beasley, said the store has decided to keep the mural up until March 12.
'They've inspired me'
It's exciting news for the students, who spent four days creating the mural.
The school allowed them to take two days off to create the project, but the students decided to spend their weekend, on Feb. 4 and 5, completing it as well.
"I'm more than happy," Makoumbou said of the completed artwork. "It means that my voice is being heard."
The students said they wanted to create a diverse work in terms of colours and textures, also taking inspiration from nature. The mural is also much bigger than the one they created in 2022.
Makoumbou said the response to the art has been very positive, with people stopping by to ask questions and offer compliments as they worked.
One of the goals of the project was to reach out to people and make a difference, Anderson said. It was also to offer the students an opportunity to showcase their skills.
LISTEN | Marie-Eve Makoumbou describes how the mural came together:
"I've seen them work at school. They've inspired me," he said.
"It was exciting for them and it was exciting for me, and it was letting them just create and express themselves, and that's what they did. So I am extremely proud of them."