Catheryn Illitylo
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How art builds community on campus

There’s a lot of art at the College's Calgary campus.

Take a stroll through Bow Valley College’s Calgary campus, and it won’t take you long to realize there’s a lot of art on the walls. But what might not be as obvious is that those art pieces total 500 examples of motivation and encouragement. 

Why is there so much art at the College? It all started about five years ago, when the Executive Team had a vision that art should be on as many walls as possible throughout the downtown campus. However, the reason wasn’t to make things look like they’re nicely decorated, says Katherine Ylitalo, the College’s art curator. It was so our learners, staff, and visitors could feel that they're part of a community and share a visual environment. 

Since then, the College has acquired its art in a number of ways. Some are donations; others are created by Artstream students; some are from public institutions such as the Alberta Foundation for the Arts. As we started to collect more art, word spread to the community, and local artists started donating out of their own will. 

Something Ylitalo really enjoys about the College’s art concept are the stories of the artists and their works. Ylitalo writes the labels for each piece, and in doing so she wants the reader to understand how the artists got to where they are today. “I know a lot of people who come to the College are trying to construct a new work life,” she says, “I thought would be helpful to people to see the kinds of things that various artists have gone through to make a life.”
  
It’s likely especially helpful to people who see art as such a fundamental part of life. To illustrate this idea, Ylitalo recalls a talk she gave at the Intercultural Centre. It was about art in Calgary. “[The learners] were really hungry to see art in Calgary,” says Katherine, adding that so many learners showed up, they had standing room only. “And they were from so many different backgrounds,” she says. “People think art is some kind of frill — for these learners, it’s a basic.”  
 

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