Conversation Piece: “The River”

This collaborative mural stretches up several floors.

June 30, 2018

The collaborative project called “The River” is more like a waterfall.

In March, the mural was unveiled at the University LRT station. It brightens what has been one of the most drab downward walks in all of the city. As any commuter will tell you, the seven-storey walk down from the University of Alberta’s bus terminal to the track level of the LRT station feels like it takes an eternity. There are flights of stairs, landings, more flights of stairs, more landings. You get to a door, think you’re at the bottom, and find it’s just an access door to a lower concourse. There’re more steps to go before you hit the bottom.

Now, there’s a rendering of an animal at every landing. Start from the top and marvel at the woodpecker. Travel down and there’s a bison at the next landing. Then, a bear hunting fish in the river. And, at the next level, there’s a long, silver, spiny sturgeon, with a moon over the gills. Further down, and there’s a beaver. Finally, a pack of wolves bathed in the glow of the northern lights.

Each level is connected by water drops that are painted onto the walls. And, as you descend, that’s what gives the waterfall effect. You follow the drops down, and they lead you to the next image. Then the next. (And, after all, you’re heading down anyway, to catch the train).

The mural is a collaboration between four artists, Carla Rae Taylor, AJA Louden, Dana Belcourt and Matthew Cardinal. Of the four, it’s worth noting that Belcourt was just 18 years old when the project was unveiled. 

“The River” is part of the Paint the Rails project that, when finished, will see six different art projects that celebrate reconciliation mounted at various transit stops in the city. The projects are a result of a collaboration between the John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights and the Edmonton Transit Service.

Now, those steep stairs aren’t for everyone. And they’re certainly not very, well, accessible. For those who want to learn more about “The River” but aren’t physically able to make the seven-storey trip down the steps, you can watch a video about the mural at the John Humphrey Centre’s website, at

            This article appears in the July 2018 issue of Avenue Edmonton. Subscribe here.


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