Black advocacy group ends mural replacement after “violent vitriol, racism and threats”

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A group looking to replace an iconic 25-year-old mural in the heart of downtown Calgary with Black Lives Matter imagery avoids violent threats and racist vitriol, the group’s co-founder said, and decided to unplug .”It has been incredibly, wordless, quite racist and quite violent towards us,” Allison Dunne told the Eyeopener de Calgary Wednesday.

Dunne’s Pink Flamingo, a group that works with blacks and gays, received $ 120,000 in funding for a handful of Black Lives Matter murals.

The space proposed for one of these murals, replacing Give wings to the dream – painted by Doug Driediger in 1995 on the former Calgary Urban Project Society (CUPS) building at 128 Seventh Avenue SE – seems to have drawn criticism.

“We have received a lot of threats,” Dunne said.

A selection of comments received by a group proposing to replace the Giving Wings to the Dream mural with a Black Lives Matter mural. (Submitted by Allison Dunne)

Give wings to the dream is iconic in the core. It features a pair of hands reaching for the blue sky alongside a white bird spreading its wings.

If you look closely, the hands are actually multicolored, which wasn’t a mistake, the artist says.

“It was deliberately designed to show a variety of skin tones across the length of the arms because then CEO Lorraine Melchior and I both agreed that it was really important. to show diversity in a community aspect to the thing, ”explained Driediger.

“It was not in a way to distinguish an ethnic group”.

Doug Driediger painted Giving Wings to the Dream in 1995 on the side of the old CUPS building in downtown Calgary. (CBC)

Driediger is torn by the current controversy and fears that an important principle has been lost.

“This controversy is not about Black Lives Matter or me, but this place. This is a mural that has been around for 25 years and some say has survived its lifespan, others have said it was an iconic part of Calgary’s cultural heritage, “Driediger says. .

“I suddenly hear that people have strong feelings about this mural in this location.”

He says there are a lot of moving parts, but at the end of the day, it’s about location.

“I’m honored by the support from the audience, but it bothers me, worries that something that is loved will be removed so that something else that will hopefully be loved can be put in place. This has been my concern from the start. I think the location turns out to be a problem. ”

The fresco Giving wings to the dream in progress in 1995. (Submitted by Doug Driediger)

Dunne says her team is open to productive suggestions, but a lot of the comments were just “don’t do it.”

Of the initial 20 locations Pink Flamingo had chosen, some owners were also reluctant.

“Some buildings didn’t want the subject matter on their building, even though we haven’t chosen the art yet,” Dunne said.

“We still have our proposals open at the moment. “

Allison Dunne is with Pink Flamingo in Calgary. (Janet Davies)

‘The story has changed’

Dunne says his team initially believed Driediger was not opposed to what was planned for the old CUPS building.

“We moved forward with this wall after contacting the original artist and we could not have moved forward if we had not understood that our match was favorable or, at worst, neutral,” Dunne said.

“We announced this mural weeks ago without a backlash, sending out over 145 press releases and doing numerous interviews. Over the past two days, the narrative has changed and it is no longer safe to do the Black Lives Matter murals this year. ”

Some of Driediger’s work is captured by a photographer for future reproductions.

Dunne says the project will be reassessed next summer.

For more stories about the experiences of black Canadians – from anti-black racism to successes within the black community – check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project of which black Canadians can be proud. You can read more stories here.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.

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