June 30, 2021

Community Collaboration and Outreach with the Calgary Atlas Project

First Nations Stampede, the Alternative Art Map, and community collaborations
Photo: Adrian Stimson speaks about his map First Nations Stampede at the Glenbow Museum, March 26, 2021. Photo by Sean Lindsay.
Adrian Stimson speaks about his map First Nations Stampede at the Glenbow Museum, March 26, 2021. Photo by Sean Lindsay.

The Calgary Atlas Project continues its mandate of seeking to document forgotten and lesser-known stories from Calgary's history by mapping them onto the city's geography and highlighting significant sites, events and people in Calgary's past. Thanks to the Community Grant from the Calgary Foundation there have been significant developments since the last newsletter.

We would first like to express our gratitude to everyone who made our virtual launch from the Glenbow Museum of First Nations Stampede: A Guide to First Nations History at the Calgary Stampede such a beautiful and informative event on March 26: 

  • Map artist, Adrian Stimson for creating the map and presenting an informative talk about the process of developing the bison hide robe
  • Elder Adrian Wolfleg of Siksika Nation for welcoming us to Glenbow and offering the opening blessing
  • Peig Abbott, sculptor and production technican, for designing and handcrafting the stretcher frame for the robe 
  • Joanne Schmidt, Acting Curator, Glenbow Museum for offering us the exhibition space and coordinating the event

From the start, the Calgary Atlas Project has resolutely set out to be a collaborative project, aiming to work as far as possible with local writers and artists from the communities and histories being explored and to use local archives and resources. Important to the project too is not just documenting these histories in innovative ways but also disseminating them as widely as possible among the city's communities in order that we all be enriched by our increased understanding of the past and its reverberations in the present.

The bison hide robe was stretched on a custom frame, designed and built by sculptor Peig Abbott.

Photo by Drew Thomas.

Now, thanks to the hard work of Project Manager, Drew Thomas, we have established a network of over 30 local community organizations which are engaged in supporting the distribution of Atlas maps to interested community members. As a result we have experienced burgeoning community circulation, creating new community connections, suggestions, donations, and events. Highlights of these connections include the proposal of new map topics, requests for collaboration with educational groups (such as Stampede School, Calgary’s Story, and FOCUS for Seniors), and event collaborations with former City Councillors, community historians, and religious, social, and cultural communities. Community partners like Communitywise, Bridgeland Community Association, and The Lantern community church added additional connections to our network by recommending new communities to us and by promoting direct contacts. This support has been particularly valuable during an unstable period of fluctuating COVID-19 public health orders.

A map of Calgary's alternative art history, illustrated by art collective Drunken Paw.

Examples of some of the myriad of ways the news about the project is reaching people are the following. (1) A Queer Map: A Guide to Calgary’s LGBTQ2S+ History was featured in historical programming for a local LGBTQ2S+ community organization in March, and was the subject of Sprawl's most read article of 2020 (https://www.sprawlalberta.com/the-forgotten-calgary-map). (2) Upcoming on July 27, Community advocate and map maker Shaun Hunter will host a map making research event with Calgary Atlas Project map researchers Kevin Allen and Erin Hryniuk to promote the variety of map making activities taking place in Calgary. (3) Community Associations have been including Atlas Project content in newsletters like the Bowest'ner and Huntington Honker, generously providing this space for information on the project for free. These types of newsletters as well as social media are a great way to reach new groups across the city and so far have generated requests for maps from as far away as Toronto and the United States.

Independent bookstores are also sharing the Atlas Project with the community, connecting us with other community groups and retailers. Calgary Atlas maps are now proudly available at Maptown, Pages Kensington, The Next Page, Aquila Books, Owls Nest Books, and Shelflife Books. These distributors are helping us to build and strengthen community ties. In all, The Calgary Atlas Project has now connected with over 100 community associations, 60 faith organizations, and 100 community organizations, and has been featured in 7 newsletters and innumerable social media posts and shares. Growing awareness of the project we hope will lead to new ideas and suggestions for further collaborations.

A third map will be available before June is out: Calgary's Art Underground, Place, Time, Art: A Guide, which tells the story of alternative and underground artists and art movements in the city. Artwork for this map has been produced by local collaborative art trio Drunken Paw and the research was carried out by local independent curator, Diana Sherlock. The map explores many, but by no means all, of the art initiatives that have shaped and continue to shape the local art scene. 

It will be followed in quick succession by Workers Stand Up: A Calgary Labour History Map. Local artist Karen Jeane Mills has collaborated with historian Kirk Niergarth on this map, which documents sites of labour activism and radicalism, charting confrontations and spaces as well as the people and organisations whose activism has left a mark over the years on the working life of the inhabitants of this city. 

In progress are three other maps: (1) Calgary's 40 Most Important Works of Architecture, (2) Calgary Screens Map, exploring the role Calgary's picture palaces and film organizations had in shaping urban character and space, and (3) Food Immigration Pathways Map, detailing traces left by immigrant communities as reflected in the independently owned ethnic restaurants and groceries of Forest Lawn/International Avenue. 

You can find more details about the project in general at https://arts.ucalgary.ca/calgary-institute-humanities/events-and-community/calgary-atlas-project. As time goes on we will add more details and background about the people, places and events depicted on the maps to enrich further our understanding and knowledge of these forgotten or marginalised histories.

We are always happy to share the maps with any interested schools, community organisations and non-profit groups. So please reach out to us at cih@ucalgary.ca with any questions or for further information.

Narratives of Color Project Report

The Narratives of Color project began as a response to stand in solidarity against the police atrocities after the unfortunate death of George Floyd. To address this issue and raise awareness of racial discrimination occurring in the Calgary area, we decided to submit an informed proposal for the Language Research Centre (LRC) Graduate Fellowship in 2020. After successfully receiving the Fellowship, we realized that the subject of racial justice makes people highly uncomfortable. Therefore, we explored a hybrid approach – one that combined knowledge about the issue with creativity (poetry, journaling, etc.) to express and learn about issues of racism. 

artistic bubbles

Calgary Institute for the Humanities Newsletter Spring 2021