Speaking to diversity through "A Pattern Language"
February 1, 2022
The Valley Line Southeast LRT project public art collection includes art glass, sculptures, a mosaic and a series of paintings. Additional opportunities for artists to get involved in the Valley Line Public Art are yet to be announced.
Individual artists, organizations and collectives sent in 260 submissions for the public art opportunities along the 13-km LRT route. Each submission was reviewed by selection committees made up of community members, local artist representatives, project personnel and City of Edmonton staff. The commissions were awarded to four Edmonton-based artists, three Alberta-based artists, one international artist, one Indigenous artist team and one Métis artist.
Alberta-based artist Karen Ho Fatt Lee was selected to create the canopy art at the Grey Nuns Stop in Mill Woods. Titled A Pattern Language, the structure was inspired by the patterns in cultural textiles, reflecting the cultural diversity of the surrounding community.
Like many of the artworks we’ve featured, community engagement helped refine the concept of A Pattern Language to build a strong connection between the community and this eye-catching piece.
Let’s take a closer look at the patterned canopy structure.
Throughout history, cultures have traded and borrowed from each other, assimilating techniques and motifs into new norms. A motif is a singular design element that makes up a pattern.
To engage with the local community, Karen hosted a workshop and invited community members to bring samples of fabrics that represented their heritage. These fabrics were used as the starting point for further historical research into the motifs that appear on the canopy sculpture. After cultural experts verified fabric details, motifs from traditional textiles were woven into the final design of the Grey Nuns Stop canopy artwork.
The final design of A Pattern Language includes 22 traditional folk and tribal motifs with cultural significance to ethnic groups from Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. The aligned motifs resemble a cloth border and are harmoniously arranged across a 53-foot-long aluminum structure. The repetition of various geometric and curvilinear motifs reflects the balance and diversity in the community.
The visual language of fabrics depicted in the canopy artwork breaks down barriers that spoken and written language may create. From Polish floral folk embroidery and a German eagle motif stitch to an Arabic pointed star and a Vietnamese Hmong tribal pattern, there’s a reflection of many cultures. The result is an integrated and timeless design that unites members of the Mill Woods community.
Karen hopes this piece will inspire passengers and local communities alike. The airy artwork raised on the canopy will uplift those taking the train and turn an everyday activity into a joyful experience.
“Art is meant to inspire,” Karen shared. “I hope that people can see themselves in the motifs as we are more alike than different. There is unity in diversity in this ‘cloth border.’”
Heading to Mill Woods? Take a walk by the Grey Nuns Stop at 31 Avenue and 66 Street to find the motif that speaks most to you. Share your photos with us on social media using #YEGPublicArt.
About Karen Ho Fatt Lee
Karen Ho Fatt Lee is a Canadian visual artist and designer who creates two- and three-dimensional art in a variety of media. She has a number of colourful functional and artistic public art pieces within various jurisdictions in Alberta. Karen lives in the beautiful foothills of the Rocky Mountains, which provides an endless source of inspiration.