Painting the Calgary Tower

Voilà -
At the top!

Last Saturday, I had the privilege to paint in the tallest art gallery of the west (and maybe even the world!) – our very own Calgary Tower. Twenty teams gathered in the lobby at 9 a.m., equipped with brushes, rollers, TimBits, and all rainbows of paints to fight for the top in the 10th annual Alberta Wilderness Association mural competition. You can go check out the murals, all featuring Albertan wildness in their native habitats, during the 21st Climb and Run for Wilderness! (Which just happens to take place during Youth Week 😀 )

Half a roll of tape and 1.5 hours of work...
Half a roll of masking tape and 1.5 hours of taping... let's get down to business.

I must say, the creativity of the contestants, from all different walks of life, was incredible, evident in their team names: Sparkle Power!, Beaver Weavers, The Dunford Clan Scrabblers, and Team Charmander, to name a few. (Guess which team I was on?)

Candy and I were assigned to paint on the 40th level, and it took us two whole hours to haul all of our 8 pots of paint to that landing – just kidding! There was no time to waste. We took the super-speed elevator to the observation level (which got us there in a minute) and climbed down 19-ish floors in the narrow stairwell. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized why they only allow the two contestants per rickety metal landing (I’m sure it was perfectly safe. I’m just not used to being so high up and in such a tiny space).

"I feel like a whole new person after being able to dab my brushes on to the pristine walls of the Calgary Tower!" - Candy, Team Charmander

We spent the first hour and a half sketching and taping the outlines of our design onto the 1.1 x 2m of primed wall before getting to the fun part: actual painting. If you’ve never painted on a wall before, you’ve been missing out. The feeling of making permanent (not to mention, legal) art on a concrete, (somewhat) indestructible surface is just… incomparable. Definitely an once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Pshh... who's scared of the glass floor?

– And it wasn’t just any old wall, either. This was in the stairwell of the Calgary Tower. One of the most symbolic pieces of architecture in our city. Sound travelled really well throughout the stairwell, and what sounded like it came from only a few levels down turned out to be twenty-some floors away (I would know, having sprinted up and down to fetch water and borrow pencils). Footfalls on the steel encased stairs and the hourly bells, combined with the small space, made it feel like being in a vertical, stationary train.

Halfway into the day, we headed up onto the observation level for lunch and enjoyed the breathtaking 360° panoramic view of Calgary for half an hour before racing back to our landing.

6 hours later: voilà!

At the risk of sounding cliché – you really don’t notice how fast time passes in the windowless stairwell, painting away – before we knew it, volunteers came by to remind us to wrap up before the judging began.

This may be a bit early, but start designing for next year’s competition! It’ll be something to take off the To-Do-Before-I-Die List. (I mean, how many people can say they’ve painted a mural? How about a mural in the Calgary Tower?) I know I’ll be rolling up my sleeves again 😀

BTW. We didn’t win the prize baskets, but these people did. Check out their incredible work!

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