UpLift! Fest already in progress

·3 min read

It’s the event that turns people’s heads as it turns walls into massive pieces of public art.

The second annual UpLift! Mural Festival is underway with one artist already nearing completion of her mural. Another just began on Monday while a third and final muralist is set to start at the end of this week.

“It's going really well so far. There’s lots of great stories developing and some really good energy in town,” said organizer Logan Ireland.

The festival began last year as a creative way of accomplishing several goals. It was purposefully set in May to help boost tourism during a period when the ski season had ended and the camping season was not yet in full swing.

Apart from that, it does have some major decorative benefits.

“There's a lot of blank canvases out there,” Ireland said, referring to the otherwise unadorned exterior walls of many of the town’s buildings. Those walls are slowly filling up with some eye-catching and meaningful art.

Look to the Old Fire Hall where Slave Lake/Treaty 8 artist bb iskwew is finishing up a piece in honour of kokums, meaning grandmothers. It’s covered with flowers that surround the portrait of the artist’s own kokum on a beautiful purple background.

“That's why I chose the really bright purple background. It’s the first time that I've used purple. In Cree culture, purple represents grandmothers when we give offerings. It's really like a power colour. And the plants are all native plants to Treaty 8 territory as well as here in the mountains. It's going to be really vibrant and bright. I really wanted it to capture people's eyes when they walked by,” bb iskwew said.

Elsewhere, Calgary’s Alex Kwong started this week on a project painting a portrait of Jasperite Della Senz on the alley wall of the Jasper Masonic Lodge (Clocktower Mall). This weekend, Kazakhstan’s Ola Volo brings her brushstrokes to her own portrait of a woman on the tennis court walls behind the Jasper Activity Centre.

“One of the interesting storylines developing is that all three of the artists are painting strong female characters. This must be something in the air. It was totally independent of each other. It's also cool that they each have their own style,” Ireland said.

To celebrate the festival and these monumental masterpieces, organizers are hosting a series of events throughout the month of May. On Saturday, May 13, bb iskwew’s mural will be unveiled with her speaking about the work at 5 p.m.

Afterward, people are encouraged to get to the rooftop patio of Jasper Pizza Place starting at 7 p.m. All artists will be in attendance for that party that has the best view of Sacred Fire by Kalum Teke Dan of the Blood Tribe.

Alex Kwong will unveil his mural on May 19 that will take the form of a community parade from Della’s house on Patricia Street to the mural site less than a block away in the alley. After Kwong presents the work, there will be an alley party from 5 to 9 p.m.

The next day, Ola Volo's unveiling event will take place at the tennis courts that will be led right into an outdoor community-friendly party from 2 to 9 p.m. Ireland hopes to have a “learn to spray” segment of the event complete with a demonstration as well.

“We do have some pretty fun events developing,” he said.

Details are still coming together so people should pay attention to the festival’s Instagram account @uplift.fest.jasper.

Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh