Next stop: Art! Edmonton artists find new platforms for works at LRT stations

An LRT station can be many things: a gateway to the city, a place to make connections, the first or last stop on your daily commute. It can also be an art gallery.

A partnership between the Edmonton Arts Council, the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts and Pattison Outdoor Advertising, is making commutes a little more colourful.

Brittany Leitheiser is one of 40 artists from the Nina whose works are featured in LRT stations. Her first reaction when she saw her art on display for all to see?
“Yay! I was so proud,” said Leitheiser. “Like one of my babies has gotten up on the big screen.”

Leitheiser in front of the poster of her puppet titled Blade on display at Coliseum Station.

Art around the city

This is the first year the Edmonton Arts Council has partnered with a local arts organization for a new version of the public art project known as YEGCanvas. 

“Let’s get more stuff out around the city, everywhere,” said David Turnbull, Director of Public Art and Conservation for the Edmonton Arts Council. “I think we have a responsibility to really try and get art out where the people are and where they’re going. People take transit, let’s do it. Let’s get art in the stations where the people are.

“The more that you have things in communities for people to appreciate, be a part of and claim ownership over, the stronger those communities become.”

The Edmonton Arts Council started the YEGCanvas project in 2019 with Pattison Outdoor Advertising. The goal is to showcase emerging, Indigenous and racialized artists whose work is not commonly seen in Edmonton’s public spaces. 

Nina artists and works

Here are some of the Nina artists and their works on display through the end of January.  
Amynah Pirani’s Friendship Doll is at Churchill Station:

Eli Abada’s Rainbow Cat is at MacEwan Station:

Jared Quinney’s Giant Squid is at Southgate Station:

I Hate it Here, I Want to Go Home (Dr. Roberts Hospital School) by Rodney D. is at University Station:

John Barayuga’s Untitled is at McKernan/Belgravia Station:

Cheryl Anhel’s Untitled is at Belvedere Station:

And Brittany Leitheiser’s Blade is at Coliseum Station:

Artist Brittany Leitheiser with her werewolf puppet Blade in front of her YEGCanvas poster on display at Coliseum Station.

Leitheiser’s Blade poster is a reproduction of a werewolf puppet of the same name. 

Over eight months, Leitheiser worked on the puppet, using papier-mâché to sculpt his head, arms and legs, and fabrics from some of her other projects to give it a reflective jacket.

“I like puppetry,” Leitheiser said. “I like puppetry because you can create a creature and it will learn from you and you can learn from it. It’s like I’m here to be Blade’s guide.”

Leitheiser has been at the Nina for six years, working with sculpture, clay and puppetry. She is also a creative writer and is working on a comic book. Leitheiser said her inspiration comes “just from [my] imagination.” 

Local partners

Turnbull said collaborating with the Nina is “how we’d like to do this program going forward, working with organizations that can tap into their pool of artists and really are the experts in who they work with to get that artwork out there.”

The Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts (9225 118 Avenue) has its own art gallery and gift shop featuring the work of its artists, but the “LaRT” project allows the art to find new homes and fresh eyes.

“It gives everyone that opportunity to expose, and to be exposed to art for free,” said Turnbull. “People can be exposed on a daily basis to art and have different experiences rather than just standing on a platform looking at their phones. Maybe there’s something else in their eye-line for them to talk about, think about, consider.

“Something out there that’s new to consider is now more important than ever,” said Turnbull.

Here’s more to talk about, think about, consider:

Art by Desiree McCook featured at MacEwan LRT Station.

Editor’s note: The featured photo at the top shows art by Jaymee Howarth featured at the McKernan-Belgravia LRT Station. The Edmonton Arts Council is a not-for-profit artist organization with a mandate to enhance the lives of Edmontonians through the arts and culture. The council funds artists, projects and festivals and, this year, celebrated its 25th anniversary.