Indigenous artist finds healing with murals at Alberta Catholic schools

Catholic News Service via

September 28, 2020

By Wendy-Ann Clarke

Through a commission to paint murals at three Catholic schools in Red Deer, Alberta, Indigenous artist Ryan Willert has been able to find his own healing and reconciliation with the Catholic community.

The 36-year-old Blackfoot from the Siksika Nation is well-known in Alberta. Based in Red Deer, he has painted murals at several colleges, universities and for various organizations. However, with several relatives, including his father, directly impacted by residential schools, he says working with Catholic institutions was not something he ever saw coming.

“Going into the Catholic schools for the first time brought up a lot of feelings in me that I wasn’t quite sure that I had actually healed from,” said Willert. “You hear the stories from your relatives about the physical and mental and sexual abuse (that happened at residential schools), and you see the problems that arise on the reserves and the poverty, and it’s hard. You build this idea toward an organization and a group of people without actually being around them.”

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