News and Events

Mural celebrates creativity and inclusivity at MHC

Kira, art and design student, paints mural at MHC
August 31, 2020

Medicine Hat College (MHC) students returning to campus this week will be greeted by a new and inclusive piece of art that celebrates community and connection.

With the COVID-19 pandemic changing her original work term placement plan, third-year art and design student Kira Vlietstra shifted her focus to designing and painting a 46 by 9.5 ft. wall mural near the front entrance of the college.

Vlietstra was given the theme “growing a vibrant future with learners and our region” for the project and chose to start by breaking the statement down into individual parts.

“My approach to this theme was to ask questions about what each of these statements mean: Who are our learners? What represents our region? Who makes our community? Who makes our future?”

Through the use of arbitrary colours, the painting depicts a stream of ambiguous figures with the absence of race and gender to represent equality and leave the identities up to the interpretation of the viewer.

“One of the first things I noticed when I moved to Medicine Hat for school was how so many different kinds of people and cultures have come together in a small community. It was important to me that anybody walking by could see themselves in the artwork and that all students felt represented in their learning environment,” says Vlietstra.

The piece incorporates a symbol of Indigenous culture, and to ensure she got it right, Vlietstra met with MHC’s Indigenous student specialist, David Restoule, Clare McNab, Indigenous wellness programmer, and Skye Wikjord, social work student, to discuss the design.

“We had an awesome discussion around common misrepresentations and how I could appropriately recognize the Indigenous culture in a modern and evolving way. We came up with the idea to incorporate smudging as a symbol of bringing people together in the community, as this is a practice that MHC and many other organizations and people are beginning to integrate into their events and daily lives.”

The concept of the mural is a gathering of Medicine Hat citizens from different backgrounds, connected by the smoke of the smudging and all playing an important role of in the culture of the city and the region.

“The story of the mural begins with an artist splashing their paint, as I see an artist’s’ role as a visualizer and creator. To make the piece specific to our region, I incorporated native plants along with animals we commonly see in our area. The animals are being held in the young Indigenous man’s arms to represent the sharing of their land and natural resources, and as a tribute to Medicine Hat, I chose to depict the future as a light bulb, which is actually a gas lamp.”

The mural is located across from The Bookstore as you enter through the main entrance of the college. Vlietstra plans to release a time-lapse video of her work as part of the reveal of the piece.

Additional information on MHC’s Art & Design program can be found here.