“Let Us Breathe” mural at Calgary art park removed because it could “cause harm”

“Let Us Breathe” mural at Calgary art park removed because it could “cause harm”
Instagram / elenabushan
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A mural with a message aimed at ending the masking of children has been painted over, just days after its completion.

The image, featured in the containR Art Park in Calgary, Alberta, depicted a young girl alongside an owl carrying away a now commonly-seen blue surgical mask emblazoned with the words “Let Us Breathe” written on it.

Created by artist Elena Bushan, the piece drew the ire of those on social media in vehement support of widespread mask usage.

“People are telling me I have no heart, I don't care about elders,” Busha, an immigrant from the former Soviet republic of Moldova said in a story featured in the Calgary Herald. “My father nearly died from COVID in Europe. I'm not anti-mask or anti-vaccine. I am a mother of two kids and I am worried about children.”

Referring to a recent report from McMaster Children's Hospital that found a tripling of attempted suicides by youth over a four-month period, Bushan said that children's “mental health is deteriorating... they are breaking.”

In response, the artistic director and executive producer of Springboard Performance, the company that manages the containR park, suggested that the piece Bushan created was different from the design first proposed and approved.

“I saw [in the preview] a way we're all coming out of COVID, health in a garden and finding new ways of growth,” Springboard Performance's Nicole Mion said. “That is very different than language specific to one group's opinion about whether COVID is real, what masks do or do not and what vaccines do or not.”

Explaining why the mural had to be removed, Mion said that she was “a big believer in supporting lots of different arts and opinions,” but that in this instance “art that is dangerous is beyond the scope of what the not-for-profit people of Springboard believe in and what we do at containR.” Because she couldn't “guarantee that the mural could do no harm,” that meant it had to be removed.

A common place for art depicting various movements and issues over its 12-year history, the containR park had no qualms hosting a Black Lives Matter mural, despite numerous instances of those protests turning violent

Rebel News previously reported on a controversy in Calgary surrounding a Black Lives Matter mural that was set prominently in the city. That art project was moved to the Chinatown district in the city. 

“If the disagreement can cause harm,” Mion explained, “ethically, we can't support that.”

Bushan, however, did acknowledge that the initial proposal was slightly different from the final result, where she chose to add on the “Let Us Breathe” message to raise awareness of the difficulties children have faced during the lengthy period of restrictions placed on them. Bushan pointed toward artistic license in her defence.

“They said I can be freely expressing myself... I don't want to get into a conflict with containR. I appreciate everything they do,” she said.

Bushan offered to rectify the situation by offering to return her commission and painting over the apparently offensive message. Mion, however, said there was no remedy, and that the piece would “always represent something else.”

Having been 10 when her former homeland was plunged into civil war, Bushan described growing up in a society where the population was fearful of sharing their opinions.

Bushan worries that “we're damaging a whole generation,” adding that “not all kids are resilient. I carried my childhood trauma with me my whole life.”

“It's just a mural, it's just a painting.”

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