Anti-Racism Bench Art in Calgary with Jae Sterling
In partnership with Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation and Crescent Heights Village You Belong Art Bench Program, Artist Jae Sterling has created a bench with an anti-racism theme at the heart of it.
About the Artist
Jae Sterling is a multidisciplinary artist and founding member of the SANSFUCCS collective. A musician at heart, he has also extended his art form over the years to include painting (acrylic & oil), digital design, mixed media, and writing.
Through his early years in Kingston, Jamaica to the landscapes of North America, Jae spent the past few years developing his artistry by weaving his experiences growing up in Jamaica, South Florida, and coming into adulthood In Canada into all his projects.
In 2020, Sterling embarked on an ambitious, year-long multimedia exhibition, Riding Horses With White Men (RHWWM). This exhibition is currently on across Canada. Jae was recently commissioned to paint a 3000 square foot mural, titled The Guide & Protector, in Calgary’s Chinatown, celebrating Black lives, making him the city’s first Black male solo muralist.
My vision of Calgary is an intersection of a city on the verge of growth, on the heels of becoming a unique cultural hub of its own and yet living through difficult times to find its footing. It’s a unique mix of generational wealth, a crippling recession, and a society transitioning to a new reality - I wanted my design to reflect the times while also suggesting the fighting spirit required to live in these times, especially as a marginalized person. The bull, which is a reoccurring motif in my current 2020 exhibition Riding Horses with White Men, is representative of my own mode of living in a city like Calgary as well as a nod to this city’s loud, sometimes brash culture. It is a symbol of fight and survival, something which this city has plenty of, as it learns to navigate and live through several ups and downs economically and brace itself for a cultural revolution. You will see wild roses in each of my designs. Though it is the provincial flower of Alberta, in my work it has taken on an important motif. It's a vibrant, thorny, abundant flower that has the ability to thrive in most conditions. Like this city, it is sometimes beautiful, sometimes hostile, and able to live through a lot. I see anti-racism as an on-going conversation that must present itself in this city in public art many times for it to make a shift in the subconscious of its mass. Anti-racism being felt and processed requires transformative conversations, and all transformative conversations are rooted in a visceral, deeper and emotional understanding of each other. And each conversation has the acute power to be transformative when it is thought provoking and uncovers new narratives. A longterm vision for transformative artwork is then is hinged on an element of accessibility, community engagement and evocative storytelling in different mediums. I am hoping through this art bench project, I will be able to use my design to move the needle, spark a conversation and connect to Calgary through an art piece that can be accessed visually, and physically. My design is a projection of hope, strength, and future flight for Calgary. My bull is the underdog of this city, voices of Black and indigenous people of colour, voices of the LGBTQN+ community, always able to move beyond the noise of oppression and thrive.