August 24, 2022
The City of Edmonton has decided not to install artwork commissioned as part of the Walterdale Bridge replacement project.
The Buffalo and the Buffalo Fur Trader features two 13-foot bronze sculptures intended to highlight the history and impact of the fur trade in Edmonton. The City’s decision rests on the potential for the artwork to be misinterpreted as a celebration of colonization. While some audiences may find the artwork thought provoking, for others it may cause harm and induce painful memories. For this reason, it is not considered inclusive to all Edmontonians.
City Administration has directed the Edmonton Arts Council to begin the process to remove the work from the Edmonton Public Art Collection. The artwork, by artist Ken Lum, was commissioned through the City’s Percent for Art Program
in 2010. The area north of the bridge, Rossdale, is an important location for the city and to Indigenous Peoples. It is protected by law as a historic cemetery/burial ground (Traditional Burial Grounds and Fort Edmonton Cemetery
), and is one of the most historically rich sites in Alberta.
Throughout the process, the City and the Edmonton Arts Council are acting from the principle of “do no harm.” As previous discussions around the Government Centre LRT Station murals demonstrated, what matters is the immediate impact the artwork can have on the community.
Rossdale’s historical and cultural significance will continue to inform the City’s work over the coming years. Engagement on projects such as the River Crossing Heritage Interpretive Plan, the River Crossing Business Plan, and the Touch the Water Promenade continue today, planning for the future of Edmonton that reflects the history of the land, and its continued significance to many Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.