Community project equips affordable housing with artwork

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Calgary’s first-ever affordable office vacant project is nearing completion, and it looks much brighter with new projects.

The Neoma Building, which sits along 7 Avenue SW, just unveiled Alberta’s largest mural along its west-facing wall. And next month, the apartments inside will also be colored.

The art is part of the Heart of Home initiative, which offers each resident of the 82-unit building a free piece of art by a Canadian artist.

It’s all part of an effort to give a helping hand to those in need during a difficult time.

“Art can be so important to someone who needs help,” said artist Linda French. “That’s why we started this.”

French brought over 65 Canadian artists, many from Calgary, to donate artwork.

Before moving this fall, each Neoma family will receive a board and each child will receive a poster.

The art will be featured in a public exhibition this weekend.

“(It’s) our way of showing them that they matter, that we care about them and just giving them something special,” French said. “So many people wanted to help that I had to turn some artists away.”

“It’s not just about having a roof over your head,” said painter Heather MacPherson. “So every one of these pieces that I give is kind of about reframing your situation. Dancing in the rain.”

Melissa Piercey’s five gifts were inspired by her own childhood in low-income homes.

“A lot of people go through tough times, and it’s just that act — that little wave of the hand — that can really help build our community,” she told CTV News. “For a lot of people, this may be their first stable home in a long time. I want to do something shiny and really happy to really enrich their home.”

Property developer and manager HomeSpace spearheaded the building’s transformation. He will soon be setting up a resident art room in Neoma to continue promoting art as a form of therapy.

The group is always looking for donations of art supplies and money.

The building will also house the new headquarters of the Inn From the Cold emergency shelter.

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