Ignite Spotlight on Business by Rachel Wenger
Graffiti Art Revitalizes YYC Spaces
Somewhere at the cross section of art, music, and technology resides a growing network of Calgary graffiti and street artists who are transforming city spaces and bringing communities together in the process.
Amanda Haynes, a digital strategist by day, leads Mixed Manifest, a project that engages local businesses and grass-roots graffiti artists to curate unique “jams,” where artists, surrounded by live music, food, and community spectators, paint vibrant, large-scale murals across Calgary.
“Calgary has a ton of artists who are incredibly talented and often overlooked, and these jams give everyone a chance to showcase their skill. We help build up artists’ confidence in themselves with mentorship, and allow them to explore art forms they may not be well versed in,” said Amanda.
Organized in close partnership with the local Business Improvement Area (BIA) committee and through the support of city grants and community volunteers, this summer’s “Bowness is Awesome Mural Jam” was the first Mixed Manifest project where artists were compensated for the murals that were created.
Amanda Haynes///Mixed Manifest
“We had a huge graffiti jam in Bowness last summer and because of that event, I was contacted by a business owner in Calgary who owned property in Bowness and wanted some exterior art for themselves. They weren’t keen on having a traditional graffiti jam, so we worked together to create a curated mural with the property and business owner’s input. A single mural didn’t really make up a jam, so I set out to convince other businesses within the Bowness BIA to allow us to paint their surfaces. With the help of Jacqui from the Bowness BIA, I was successful in getting several other businesses involved including Leopold’s Tavern, Tao of Peace Martial Arts, The Bowness Library, Car Star Bowness, and Bow Cycle. We had a stage set up with live bands, DJs, and some amazing creatives contributed a funky pop-up market. We threw a pretty epic block party while painting six unique murals on walls and sidewalks,” she said.
The Bowness is Awesome Mural Jam brought six new murals to the Bowness BIA in addition to a few more approved graffiti pieces within the area. The east-most bookend mural located on the side of the laundromat and One Stop building is the "Welcome to Bowness" mural created by Bohdi Joe and Casey James. This project was funded with help from the Ripples Grant and begins the art walk along Bowness Road.
If you venture down the alley way behind the Welcome to Bowness mural, you'll see the results of last year's Mixed Manifest "We Love Bowness" graff jam sprawling end to end. Exiting the alley way, the first sidewalk mural from this year's event is in front of Tao of Peace Martial Arts created by the talented Scott Clarke who has a number of other public murals in Calgary. Continuing along west on Bowness Road the second sidewalk mural, created by Josh Creighton, adds pops of color to the doorstep of Bow Cycle. Both sidewalk murals were funded by the ActivateYYC public art grant provided by the Federation of Calgary Communities.
The main project for the Bowness is Awesome Mural Jam is located behind Leopold's Tavern and features a massive realistic train line rolling through the prairies with homage train car graffiti created by Oddwolfe Art alongside pieces by Dan Bird, Clev, Phere, and Ibis. The final piece created for the event is behind the Bowness Library and features the first ever aerosol mural by the amazing Ris Wong. Their "Telling our Stories" mural is the west-most bookend to the art created at the event and includes colorful images of koi fish swimming up stream to a dragon's gate and a whimsical rainbow dragon along side a quote by Janet Mock.
Mixed Manifest is working with the Bowness BIA to create an artistic hot spot for locals and tourists to enjoy and there are currently plans in the works to return for a third mural event in the summer of 2022.
The roots of this work grew from Amanda’s passion for graffiti art on freight trains and doing jams at music festivals. In 2019, she worked as a volunteer Art Director for Impact Charity Music Festival based out of Vancouver and had two weeks to design and implement an installation. Impact throws live music events and gathers donations from ticket sales, merch, and other means to donate to selected charities for each event.
“I leveraged my network to quickly get artists involved and build a temporary wall structure for folks to paint. I constructed the walls with help from a friend and using knowledge I had from previously owning and operating a construction contracting company. We painted the walls next to the Oasis Stage and created a fun little art installation,” she said.
The graffiti installation was the first of many to come. Despite the positive feedback from festival attendees, Amanda was unsatisfied with the impermanent nature of such installations and set her ambitions towards larger and more widely accessible graffiti installations.
Well into planning for the 2020 Impact Festival, Covid-19 made an in-person event impossible through lock downs and presented an ideal opportunity to create something lasting and incorporate technology.
“We decided to do a digital festival where folks could watch live music and painting online at home. I constructed a website for Digital Impact Charity Music Festival that had four separate Twitch channels embedded, one for each stage. Together with some friends from the Apex Art Unit, we took on the task of creating The Oasis stage for Digital Impact. We took over a space in the Calgary Central Sportsplex with donations from the community and artists. Together we threw a 48 hour straight live art and music party and live streamed it on the website,”
The event attracted virtual visitors from around the world and generated more than $7,000 in donations that went to BLM and charities helping bring clean water to First Nations communities. The digital festival event was a distributed collaboration with stages based in Vancouver and Calgary. Over 25 artists contributed to the Digital Impact Oasis Stage art installation which is open for viewing by the public at the Calgary Central Sportsplex in the Breathe Parkour space.
In addition to “Mural Jams,” where the business owners and other stakeholders come together to create the concept for the murals and the artists are paid for their time, Amanda also organizes “Graffiti Jams”. The businesses are expected to offer funding for the supplies and set up, and the artists are free to do their thing. Even though the artists aren’t paid for their time at the Graff Jams, they often collaborate to create massive “productions” with cohesive theme and color scheme. Mixed Manifest hopes to evolve these events into paid projects for the artists in the future.
One such event was the Mixed Manifest "Gym Jam", also located at the Calgary Central Sportsplex. This event was the largest in terms of scale and participation and the results are truly stunning. Over 10,000 square feet of wall space was decorated by over 40 artists. Some of the themes for individual walls include a concrete jungle theme, a Miami Vice space theme, and an Egyptian space themed wall spanning over 150 feet in length.
Graffiti tends to get a bad rap. Unwanted graffiti is a problem for businesses and for the people that are fined for painting without permission and Amanda is hoping to create a new channel for this art.
“Illegal tags and pieces generally get buffed over quickly, or the business is fined. I aim to change and City and communities’ impressions of graffiti and street art by providing opportunities for artists to create something lasting and beautiful,” she said.
“I could not do this alone! There are so many people who want to be involved. We get musicians, food trucks, pop-up markets, etc in addition to the murals. I'm fortunate to have a vast network of incredible creatives who are eager to participate. My construction manager, Bryant, is a key player in the jams as he helps to coordinate by supplying the scaffolding and a wealth of expertise. The participants often step up to help out with setup and teardown. It truly is a community endeavour.”
No space is too large or too small for a Mixed Manifest public art event. A few of the regular artists recently collaborated on a Halloween themed haunted maze for the Tsuut'ina Nation Youth Program, as well as a massive 400 foot long golf themed production behind the National Golf Academy Golf Dome. Videos for the summer's artistic events are on the Mixed Manifest YouTube channel. Better yet, schedule a day to tour around the city and visit all the murals in person!
Mixed Manifest is always looking for more opportunities to facilitate public art endeavours. If you have wall space that could use a custom mural, or want to host a graffiti jam, connect with Amanda through the Mixed Manifest social media or email email@example.com.