Inglewood holds the distinction of being Calgary’s oldest neighborhood which comes a rich history. It’s been 147 years since Inglewood was officially established, but the history of the neighborhood runs much deeper. Prior to 1875, Inglewood was home of the Blackfoot Nation.
Recently, the Inglewood BIA sought out artists who could create a mural piece showcasing Calgary’s Indigenous history. Once Jesse Gouchey he heard about the opportunity, he knew it was a must-have project and was fortunate enough to the candidate the BIA selected.
“I got my start being a mural painter and an artist here in Calgary. I’m living in Vancouver now, so to come back and do another huge project on a really substantial wall, and for it to be a history piece with a big significant meaning behind it, is pretty special to me,” Gouchey said.
Gouchey, who is Métis-Cree had the initial idea to create a piece that showcased the historical importance of where the Bow and Elbow Rivers converge. As he started creating multiple drafts for the project, things began to grow more and more.
“I started from the top left corner which is what the confluence of the rivers. Then from there, it’s just kind of the nature, the river glacier, the rivers, and then things like the buffalo. And then, I just kind of went from nature to the people – the first nations that were here. I then laid out the flags for the for the different groups and the different nations that reside here,” Goucey said.
“It’s the history of the area, it used to be a trading spot where the rivers meet. Then the Mounties came, they set up Fort Calgary and then Treaty 7 was established and that killed off the buffalo. Then the Métis arrived, and the train, and then it moves into present day with brick buildings and what Inglewood is like today.”
One of the concepts behind Gouchey’s mural has a woman creating a quilt and, on the quilt, significant moments of Indigenous history that took place in and around the Bow and Elbow Rivers would unfold. But there was still something Gouchey had to get sorted out.
Gouchey needed someone to model the women creating the quilt. When pondering who was right for the job, Gouchey’s girlfriend suggested asking his sister to model for the project.
“My sister quilts all the time, we’re really close and she means a lot to me. I was thinking, ‘Who the hell am I gonna find because I need a picture reference?’ My girlfriend just says, ‘Why don’t you paint your sister?’ Holy crap,” Gouchey said. “I can’t believe I didn’t think about it sooner.”
Gouchey added that having his sister in a piece of art that millions of people will see over the course of many years made this project extra special.
Indigenous art is art
Gouchey spoke on what the process is like creating different forms of art whether that be indigenous-based or not. In particular, he wants everyone to enjoy the mural whether you’re indigenous or not and encouraged people to step out of their comfort zones to seek out different cultures’ art.
“I always find it a bit strange when I’m working and I’m doing an Indigenous piece and people kind of give me a certain vibe like they’re not really sure how they should talk to you or approach you, and then treat you a little differently or something.” He added. “Maybe just approach an Indigenous person that’s doing art the same way you would anybody else.”
Gouchey hopes that people from different cultures and backgrounds can come together through appreciation of art as another step forward with reconciliation. While he’s impressed with the progress that has been, he feels that there’s still a long way to go.
“There’s still a lot of uncertainty with non-Indigenous people towards Indigenous people. It’s like putting us in this box, and there’s a separation where it’s like, ‘You guys stay there and we’ll stay here kind of thing, and we’ll tread lightly when we’re all forced to interact.'” Gouchey said
“But it is getting better. There are a lot more projects happening to celebrate the culture and to celebrate the people.”
Gouchey’s mural is on the side of Fair’s Fair Books which is located at 907 – 9 Ave. SE.
You can find more of Gouchey’s work on Facebook at Artworks by Jesse Gouchey.