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Photo by Peter Oliver

BUMP Festival back for another year

By Troy Hasselman, August 26 2019—

Anyone who’s walked around the Beltline lately has probably noticed an increase in murals dotting the area. From the psychedelic-coloured cowboy boots outside of Gravity Pope on 17th Ave., to the purple bicycles outside Hotel Arts, to the supersized cougar on 12th Ave., the Beltline has become noticeably more bright and vibrant place in recent years. Credit for these murals is owed to the Beltline Urban Mural Project (BUMP), which will be bringing murals into the city for its third year this week and will also be holding its second edition of the BUMP Festival, which brings music, beer and movies into the fold. The festival adds to the eye-popping murals that will be put up around the city over the last week of August.

BUMP was started as a means of adding public murals to Calgary, inspired by similar projects in other major Canadian cities.

“It really was inspired by what a lot of other cities are already doing if you look to Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Montreal,” says Beltline Neighbourhood Association president Peter Oliver. “It’s really opening up a new space and a new approach to public art that really wasn’t so prominent before. The Beltline has an almost boundless supply of walls – some of them prettier than others, so there’s really a lot of potential to really transform the space into something more exciting and inclusive that’s accessible and open to everyone.”

Since the beginnings of BUMP in 2017, the festival has grown rapidly both figuratively and literally, with artists from around the world now participating in the project and the murals taking on a massive scale. The murals brighten up the neighbourhood, adding a touch of colour that Oliver sees as improving the mood of the entire neighborhood.

“I think there’s so many of them – it changes the mood in the neighbourhood,” he says. “More people are walking around with a smile on their face, people are stopping on the sidewalk to watch and to take pictures. There’s an excitement that’s generated, and what’s great about not just having a festival [is that] a mural is something that remains and it’s our intention that these murals will stick around for years or decades just because we have so many walls.”

Participants in the festival include both locals and artists from around the world, including Europe and China, representing different parts of the globe, as well different styles of art. This commitment to diversity is also reflected in the festival’s jury.

“Diversity is important to us,” Oliver says. “We are also really cognisant of wanting to foster more artists and develop more of a visual arts and mural scene in Calgary. We kind of go across the whole spectrum and we have a diverse jury that’s made up of not just community residents but people more involved in the arts industry and major galleries in Calgary and Alberta, people who represent Indigenous artists in Calgary and Alberta and also former mural painters from the previous years.”

The diversity present in the festival is reflective of the growth it has made in the short time it’s been active.

“We had over 120 applications this year, which was more than double what we got last year and from people from all over the world,” Oliver says. “I have no idea how people found out in Nigeria that we were having a mural festival here, but we had applications from there. I think the word is spreading right now and we are getting international attention. It also helps too because these artists travel the world painting different murals everywhere and they go and spread the word about what is happening in Calgary.”

The BUMP Festival is more than just murals, however, as events like the Inner City Brewery Alley Party highlight the festival. The free party will be held in the alley outside Inner City Brewery on 11 Ave SW. Headliners for the alley party include Latin-trap pioneer Sango, bass-heavy electronic DJ Jubilee, Montreal rapper and brother of 2016 Polaris Prize winner Kaytranada Lou Phelps alongside some of Calgary’s best local DJ’s.

“We’ve got a lot of really exceptional electronic, soul and hip-hop artists that I think will make for a really fun event,” Oliver says. “It’s a really stacked lineup and what’s great about it is normally you’ll be shelling out money for a festival pass or tickets, but this is a totally free event. It’s a beer garden but it’s also all ages and open to the public. It’s limited capacity because it’s an alley, and we’re advising everyone to show up early. We’re also going to be offering a bunch of free guided mural tours because it’s not always easy to find these things by yourself and provide the background stories about the artists and the murals.”

On Aug. 30 Central Memorial Park will play host to a movie screening, an event done in collaboration between BUMP and the Calgary Underground Film Festival (CUFF). The film being shown is called Beautiful Losers, a 2008 documentary that follows the growth of street art as a medium.

“It’s kind of a cool story with a little bit of history to the street art scene,” Oliver says. “People are invited to show up and roll up a blanket and have some beer and popcorn and take in some really good DJs before the movie plays as well.”

Oliver says the festival and its promotion of art and inclusivity is important, especially at this time.

“I think it brings a lot more dialogue and conversation into the open. I think right now, specifically in Calgary and Alberta, we’re kind of in dark times,” Oliver says. “We have a lot of politicians who are casting a lot of fear, stoking anger and pitting people and portions of the population against each other and I think that is really frightening and really something we should be concerned about. I feel like these murals are really something we can all come together and celebrate. We are a diversity of different people and we are sharing a common experience and that’s something worth celebrating and the murals are an exclamation point on that belief.”

The BUMP Festival runs Aug. 28–31 with events across the Beltline. For more information about the festival, visit their website yycbump.ca or check them out on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook @yycbump.

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