April 12, 2024 / Tsuut'ina Culture
Mural, Culture, Community, Artwork

Taza is a hub of cultural expression and creativity that strives to honour the meaningful history of Tsuut’ina Nation and their stories. The recently completed Shops at Buffalo Run have artfully incorporated murals and artwork by talented Tsuut’ina Nation artists, creating a unique sense of place and a lasting connection to the land. We reached out to some of the artists to delve deeper into their creative processes, shedding light on their inspirations and techniques, and to highlight the importance of visual storytelling for the Tsuut’ina Nation and Taza.

Fasken: Tsuut’ina Nation artist, Starlight, with the desk he painted for Fasken Law’s Buffalo Run office. The mural took Keegan one week to complete.

Celebrating Keegan Starlight’s Captivating Murals

Starlight is the visionary artist behind multiple artworks found at Taza, including pieces at Fasken Law and Servus Credit Union at Buffalo Run, and Metro Ford at Taza Park. Each piece reflects a distinct aspect of the surrounding landscape. The table mural at Fasken Law beautifully portrays the rolling foothills from left to right, while the mural at Servus Credit Union captures the majestic Rocky Mountains to the west of Buffalo Run. Lastly, the mural at Metro Ford immerses viewers in the allure of stoney flats.

Starlight’s journey into the world of art began during his high school years, though he initially doubted its potential as a career. Opting to work in construction, it wasn’t until the age of 25 that his wife, then his girlfriend, persuaded him to pursue his artistic dreams at the Alberta College of Art and Design (now Alberta University of the Arts or AUArts). During his four-year tenure, Starlight unearthed a deep-seated passion for painting. Today, he stands as a highly sought-after artist in Tsuut’ina Nation, Calgary, and beyond, boasting a successful career spanning over 15 years in the professional art world.

The round design of the Fasken Law boardroom desk matches the circular elements throughout the room.

Artwork Showcase: Fasken Law Boardroom Desk and Buffalo Painting

Fasken Law’s boardroom table stands out as a distinctive artistic centrepiece at Buffalo Run. Inspired by the circular layout of the room and the table itself, Starlight transformed the boardroom table into a captivating mural canvas. Serving as the focal point of the office space, the boardroom table is a hub for meetings, discussions, and welcoming new visitors. Starlight’s painting seamlessly transitions from day to night as it encircles the desk, offering a unique viewpoint and perspective from each seat around the table.

This painting was specially commissioned by Fasken Law to complement their boardroom desk and uphold an office aesthetic that pays homage to the surrounding land. It remains one of Keegan’s favourite paintings completed.

Incorporating Tsuut’ina art into the new office space was an important goal for Fasken Law.

Brenden Hunter, Co-Chair for the Fasken Reconciliation Implementation Committee shares, “The opening of the new office on Tsuut’ina lands aligns with our reconciliation goals including advancing our Indigenous cultural competencies. We are grateful for the opportunity to form part of the economic fabric of the Taza development and to strengthen our ties with the Tsuut’ina Nation.”

An acrylic commissioned by the team at Metro Ford to celebrate the opening of their new dealership location at Taza Park.

Artwork Showcase: Metro Ford Reimagined

Starlight’s first collaboration with Metro Ford took place in 2020, when he helped redesign the Metro Ford logo featuring a Ford Thunderbird. Reg Pattemore, President of Metro Ford, sought to pay tribute to his family legacy by revitalizing the logo originally used by his father in the 1960’s by integrating Tsuut’ina elements. The concept behind the updated logo was to create a contemporary design that not only honoured Metro Ford's history but also highlighted its ties to the Tsuut’ina Nation land, where the dealership is now located within Taza Park.

Starlight shares, “The bottom arrow represents right now. This is where the people are. These arrows [in the centre pointing down] represent the ancestors passing down their knowledge to us. The arrows are pointing to the middle, in the cross path of the futures converging. So it’s the knowledge being passed down and then it’s almost like the opportunity as well….

What I'm doing is leaving a legacy. And you know, if I’m not remembered for anything else, I hope it’s for this.”

A close up of Starlight’s mural inside the Metro Ford, featuring the classic Ford Thunderbird which inspired the updated logo design and traditionally dressed Tsuut’ina Nation dancers.

The creative team at Brandsmith helped transition Starlight’s design into the digital and illustrative realm, where it could be digitized, animated, and prepared for real-world application.

Alongside the introduction of the new brand and logo, Starlight also created a striking mural within the Taza Park dealership, spanning an impressive 14 feet by 9 feet.

The painting features the 1967 Ford Custom Cab F100 that Keegan's dad used to own, complemented by traditional Tsuut’ina symbols like a teepee and dancers, symbolizing a deep-rooted link to the land and its vibrant history.

Starlight uses acrylic paint for his murals to ensure he can work quickly and manipulate the colours and textures to achieve a desired look.

Artwork Showcase: “Buffalo Run” in Servus Credit Union

Visitors to Taza can also find Starlight’s “Buffalo Run” mural as they enter the Servus Credit Union, first unveiled in March 2023. True to the name, this painting represents the land where buffalo used to roam and shows the Rocky Mountains that can be seen to the west.

Starlight’s primary motivation is to create art that his children can easily identify as his own, even without seeing his signature, and to be able to take care of his family through the progression of his career. He is currently working on a new piece that will be unveiled in Buffalo Run – details will be shared soon! To support Keegan’s artwork, follow him on Instagram at @starlightdesigns_k or reach out to him for commission requests via [email protected].

Josh Littlelight artwork commissioned by Cupboards Express.

Exploring the Artistic World of Josh Littlelight

Another prevalent artist showcased at Taza is Tsuut’ina artist Josh Littlelight. Josh has been a practicing artist for more than 25 years, with a recent focus on professional graphic design and commercial art. His artistic journey began under the mentorship of his grandfather, whose guidance remains invaluable to him. Littlelight further honed his skills by graduating from the Visual College of Art & Design (VCAD). His unwavering passion for his craft shines through in the diverse array of pieces he has created for The Shops at Buffalo Run.

One of three panels by Littlelight commissioned by Cupboards Express.

Artwork Showcase: Trio of artwork for Cupboards Express

The trio of paintings that Littlelight created for Cupboards Express is one of his favourite installations. Each piece symbolizes a distinct time of day - morning, afternoon, and evening. Guided by his grandfather’s wisdom, Littlelight envisioned these artworks from the perspective of an eagle soaring over the mountain valley. In Tsuut’ina culture, the eagle holds significant power, possessing the ability to gaze into both the past and future. This concept lies at the core of Taza's ethos, honoring the land's rich heritage while forging a promising tomorrow together. Up close, viewers can marvel at the intricate details, such as animals running through the sky, adding a touch of wonder to these masterpieces.  

Papa John’s commissioned Littlelight to create a piece that honoured the Tsuut’ina Nation.

Artwork Showcase: Papa John’s First Mural

Littlelight is also the proud artist of the mural inside Papa John’s. It took approximately 60 hours to complete and is the first mural within the Papa John’s global franchise. During the initial stages of crafting the mural, Littlelight drew inspiration from the vibrant colours and elements synonymous with the Papa John’s brand. Their team shared that they weren’t commissioning a mural to honour Papa John’s, but rather to pay tribute to the Tsuut’ina Nation. The finished mural captures this sentiment by paying homage to the Buffalo Run area. The bottom of the mural shows two lines above and below a set of buffalo tracks, symbolizing the convergence of two paths – the Tsuut’ina Nation and Papa John’s.

At the mural unveiling, Tsuut'ina Nation Chief Roy Whitney commented, “It's a reflection of who we are within our own community. The people used to say the buffalo represents the protector of the land, so this (mural) is the protector of this facility here."

Littlelight expressed his deep sense of honor upon being invited to contribute his artwork to Taza. He takes pride in the fact that his children and family will witness his creations and legacy integrated into the community. For further insights into Josh's portfolio or to discuss potential commissions, feel free to contact him at [email protected].

Wee Wild Ones daycare opening soon at Buffalo Run. Tsuut’ina artist Stephanie One Spot is currently painting a mural inside the entrance of the daycare, which will be unveiled once the daycare opens.

Coming Soon: A Glimpse into Future Art at Taza

Exciting developments are underway at Taza, with new artwork being revealed regularly. The anticipated opening of Wee Wild Ones daycare will showcase a new mural by Stephanie One Spot, a talented Tsuut’ina artist and fourth-year student at AUArts. Keep an eye out for our upcoming feature on her artwork at Buffalo Run!

Impact of Murals on Community Identity

One Spot is also the lead artist consultant for the Taza Cultural Committee, lending her expertise to ensure Tsuut’ina art is thoughtfully integrated throughout the development. She shares:

“The significance of art in Tsuut’ina is to tell our stories, to share our stories, to tell our truths, no matter how beautiful, hard or ugly they can be. Telling our stories through art helps us preserve who we are as the First peoples and helps us put the pieces back together from what was taken from us.

We are a part of bigger Nations, North and South, and not just a small tribe caught in the middle of the western world of progress that had to sign a treaty under duress. It is important to include art at Taza, at the forefront of our economic progress as a Nation. With the help of artists coming together, we can create space to improve our skills as artists, trade, inform, teach, learn, and grow together. We can make sense of our history, of who we are and where we are going in the future, Wusa.”

Art is a powerful tool in building community. It is used to tell stories, connect people to places, and create a unique identity. Through the incorporation of Tsuut'ina Nation art into the Taza community, the development partnership helps to play a vital role in safeguarding the Tsuut’ina cultural legacy while inviting others to partake in and honour it. The growing collection of artwork throughout Taza not only pays homage to the land but also presents a vision for a unified future.

Visit The Shops at Buffalo Run to tour some of these artworks up close. To stay updated on future artwork and development in Taza, join our online community and follow us on social media.

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