'This needed to be done': Community art project begins in Albert Street bridge tunnel

Ten artists have been selected and are beginning their murals in the tunnel under Albert Street after several months of project planning.

The Cathedral Village Arts Festival was the organization chosen by the City of Regina to plan the murals after local musician Jeffrey Straker brought the idea to the city.

Brooklyn Wingert, the mural organizer with the Cathedral Village Arts Festival, said 31 artists applied to the call out.

“We looked for specifically local artists…and we wanted a combination of emerging and established artists,” Wingert said. “We had a huge array of different types of artists, different methods, different experiences levels, different backgrounds, so it was fantastic to see the outreach from the artists.

There are three themes that artists can work with this year – a free theme, a theme of land recognition acknowledging the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations and pearl, which is the same theme as the Cathedral Village Arts Festival’s 30th anniversary.

The entire tunnel won’t be completed this year. Wingert said it’s a legacy project and work will continue each summer. A total of 10 murals will be painted this year – one at each tunnel entrance and eight inside the tunnel.

“It’s meant to be on a two to three year rotational basis, always evolving and changing up the murals making us a destination for Regina, but also using it as graffiti prevention,” Wingert said.

Artists taking part said it’s a unique opportunity to show their varying skills off to the city.

“I’ve never done larger scale work and I really like the history of Wascana Lake, it really intrigued me,” artist Geanna Dunbar said.

Dunbar’s art work reflects some of the Indigenous and animal history of the nearby lake.

Geanna Dunbar has spent approximately 80 hours on the mural so far and still has more work to do. (Stefanie Davis/CTV News)

“Seeing the people who come through – it’s schools, families, seniors, it’s a lot of people in the neighbourhood and all have been saying the same thing. They’ve been waiting for this. They constantly take this tunnel,” Dunbar said. “I saw the graffiti, the hurtful and gross things that were in here. This needed to be done.”

Dunbar said there should be more opportunities like in the city for self-taught artists.

“It’s nice to have the city band together and create jobs during this time for self-taught artists,” she said. “It’s really hard for us to get into galleries and stuff if you don’t have a formal education.”

Because the alley is known for frequent graffiti tagging, the organizers have put some money aside for repainting if it’s necessary. Artists are hoping their work won’t be tagged.

“There’s nothing you can do to fully prevent that,” artist Erikka Patmore said. “Of course I’ll be bummed if it gets tagged over but I’m happy to layer over and keep it going. I think with the more art there will be, the less encouraging it will be to vandalize.”

Patmore’s design plays into the festival’s anniversary theme. She’s painting three Cathedral neighbourhood businesses: Aware House Books, The Paper Umbrella and Cuppa’T Specialty Fine Teas.

“I live right by there and I frequent that every day, so I just wanted to bring myself into to work somehow,” Patmore said.

The artists will be working on their murals in the coming weeks. Three spots will be staying open in the tunnel so more artists will be able to take part next year. The Cathedral Village Arts Festival said another call out for artists will be made around March.