Michelle Hoogveld was on a sports scholarship at Lynn University when her art pushed her to sneak around at night. While others slept, she would steal the studio key for late night painting sessions. Her days were about soccer, but through her time at the Boca Raton, Florida post-secondary, she started more deeply pursuing her love for art.
More than decade later, she would turn those sneaky sessions into a career as a mural artist, sharing her pieces around the world
Growing up, Hoogveld loved two things: sports and art.
“One thing for me is I was always drawn to drawing and painting and anything creative, so that was always definitely always part of my childhood,” says Hoogveld.
In Grade 3, her art teacher pulled Hoogveld’s mother aside, telling her there was something different and special in Hoogveld’s artwork. In junior high, Hoogveld always wanted to be in the art room. In high school, she took advanced placement art.
Her soccer skills gave her a full ride to Lynn University where she earned a bachelor of science in design. But her love of art was still a major part of her studies.
While there, she worked with her professor to adapt a digital design class, allowing her and a friend to hand in alternative art pieces, such as paintings, instead. It was there where Hoogveld was really given the opportunity to explore what art meant to her.
“I remember stealing the keys to the studios and I would go in there late, late, late at night and I would just paint for hours,” says Hoogveld.
After graduation, Hoogveld put on a show featuring all her own work. But when she decided to move back to Canada, Hoogveld was nervous about making it as an artist.
Looking for stability, she went back to school to become an art teacher.
It wasn’t until 2018 — when she was commissioned by the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) to paint a mural across the east and west sides of the 4th Street SE underpass — she decided to pursue her dreams and became a mural artist.
“That wasn’t my first public piece, but it was my first big contract that I received where I knew that I could make this dream come true, that as long as I kept working really hard and really explored my style, I think that this is possible,” says Hoogveld.
Clare Lepan, vice president of marketing and communications at CMLC, says when first looking at artists to complete the mural, they wanted someone who could highlight the neighbourhoods of East Village and Victoria Park, which the underpass connects, bringing colour and vibrancy to 7,500 sq. feet of concrete.
”We wanted the art to sort of capture some of the spirit of the communities that it sat within,” says Lepan.
Over the years, CLMC has received really positive feedback from both the communities of East Village and Victoria Park, as well as individuals.
”She’s a very talented and beautiful artist,” says Lepan. “It has really helped to animate that space through her art.”
Now, Hoogveld’s work can be found throughout the city and around the world, in Los Angeles, Peru, Hawaii and beyond. Her art brings walls to life using bright and vibrant colors as well as abstract and geometric shapes.
She says how she draws on individuals’ emotions with her strategic use of colour and shape. Recently, she has been adding an abstract and geometric heart in the center of her pieces.
“For me it’s really about emulating the emotion of love and the ability to create more love and have more love in our lives,” says Hoogveld.
She has started incorporating geometrical shapes in her work and says it is symbolic of our connections with others.
Currently, Hoogveld is a self-proclaimed nomad, traveling around the world painting. But with her roots in Calgary, the city remains an important place for her and her art.
“Calgary has been exceptional in supporting emerging artists and really allowing us to discover our style, discover who we are in a creative world,” says Hoogveld.
Over the next year, Hoogveld will be kept busy as she continues to challenge herself by taking on larger walls then ever before and hopefully bringing sculpting into her art.
“If you really believe in something and if you’re willing to put in all the hard work I think anything you dream of really is possible you just really really have to believe in it,” says Hoogveld.