YEG Dignity Mural transforms space with hope

Once upon a time, not too long ago, there was a long white underground pedway that connected Churchill LRT Station to Edmonton City Centre. Bright fluorescent light bounced off its empty walls, while the echoes of footsteps and conversations trailed down the connecting corridors.

Then, in mid-June, 15 artists collectively transformed the 127-foot space in the underground pedway into the YEG Dignity Mural and invigorated it with the energy of beauty, rejuvenation and hope. 

The project is a collaboration between the City’s Edmonton Transit Service and the John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights. The organizations have worked together since 2018 when they launched transit art installations under the Paint the Rails umbrella for Canada’s 150th anniversary. The YEG Dignity Mural is the sixth installation since the partnership began.

The mural is a magnificent and diverse display of unique cultural interpretations. The 15 artists painted a total of 32 subjective circular panels to represent a visual concept of “Our Earth as Mother.” An eight-foot diameter Earth painted by lead artist, Carla Rae Taylor, reinforces and centres the unifying concept against a starry background of planets in space,

Carla, who grew up in Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories, led the project. Her family, including her parents, Bill and Cindy Gilday, brother Jay, and sister Leela, come from diverse backgrounds, including Dene, Irish, and other non-Indigenous heritages. They championed and encouraged her artistic pursuits, which Carla considers a “true gift.”

But her homeland nourished Carla’s artistic inclination, too. During dark winter days with less than five hours of daylight, Carla fondly recalls gatherings where the community made “music, art and created their own light and warmth from within.” 

Carla’s path as an artist started by studying at the En’owkin Centre, an Indigenous art school in Penticton, British Columbia. In 2003, she attended the University of Victoria for a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a graphic design certificate at Pacific Design Academy. Now she illustrates children’s books and works on a language revitalization project in the Northwest Territories, where she recreates Indigenous legends.

In Edmonton, she previously taught art to inner-city youth living on the streets with iHuman Youth Society, an organization that engages marginalized youth to foster positive personal development, well-being and social change. This latest project, the largest Carla has ever worked on, features artists of a multitude of identities, including Indigenous, Black, People of Colour, immigrants, refugees, gender and sexual diversity, and individuals with disabilities. 

#YEGDignity Mural artists Carla Rae Taylor and Allison Ochoa in front of the 8-foot diameter Earth in the pedway below Churchill Square, June 27, 2023

“I think it’s important that we’ve highlighted so many voices through this art piece because all the different pieces are going to speak to different people, and, hopefully, that creates a space that is respected,” Carla said. “There is real power in creating bridges between people, regardless of backgrounds or where they are from, because it’s an important part of creating a better world.” 

Carla Rae Taylor speaking with the YEG Dignity Mural artists & Mayor Sohi behind her at the media/ unveiling event on June 27, 2023

The theme, “Our Mother as Earth,” was significant to Carla: “Mother Earth is our life-giver. We are of her, we’re extensions of her, and it was really important for me to put this piece in a place where sometimes there is disconnection from consciousness and from a connection to the earth for people living in despair or difficult situations.” She envisioned creating, “a piece with reminders of love and connection to the earth, and unity and peace,” which intertwine throughout her artistic journey.

Carla is deeply grateful the project began with smudging and teachings about the Plains Cree people from Indigenous elders Jo-Ann Saddleback and Professor Lana Whiskeyjack. They also held knowledge circles with the artists to share the stories of the Indigenous nations who have inhabited this land for generations. “The connection of the earth is not just for Indigenous people; it’s for all peoples,” Carla emphasizes. 

“[The mural] tells the stories of people,” Carla said.  “It’s important for our city to include those stories as much as possible. Some statistics say there’s less damage to property when there’s beautiful art present.” 

It’s important to have artwork everywhere, the stories of people and our people living and inhabiting these spaces. It’s a joy to help bring that together and gift it to our City and the world.”

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi, discussing his appreciation for the YEG Dignity Mural at media event on June 27, 2023

Carla hopes the mural reminds people of their value as humans. We hope this magnificent artwork inspires you with its beauty and enhances your travels and transit experience! To see photos, visit, check out this time-lapse project video, and use the hashtag, #YEGDignity, when tagging your own photos and videos!