Calgary artist connects students through community-inspired campus murals

by | Sep 28, 2022 | Arts & Life

In February 2019, NAITSA unveiled the interactive Ooks Life mural within the walls of the CAT building. The welcoming wings were painted by Calgary-based artist Tyler Hochhalter, who has been painting most of his life and tattooing for eight years. His first mural installation at NAIT has since been a landmark photo op for students to share on social media with the hashtag #OoksLife.

“Every now and then, the hashtag comes up…it’s good to see people still getting something from it,” said Hochhalter.

Now, students can admire Hochhalter’s second mural on campus. Located in the Nest Eatery, the hoppy new mural was painted over four days in June 2022. It was revealed to students at the Nest’s reopening party on September 6.

“It’s nice to have two different types of work that people can interact with in [the] school,” said Hochhalter about his projects at NAIT. “I’ve always been a fan of a big old cheers, spilling and having a good time together and ingredients are honestly easy design things to pick out of. And hops are really beautiful, so [I think] this is perfect…a beer focused community space.”

Visions for the future within NAIT’s walls

Hochhalter, who graduated from the Alberta Institute of Arts in 2011, thinks that mural projects can make students feel inspired – especially if the art is completed by a local artist from the same city or province.

“There are ways to go about it that seem pretty commercial and corporate, and I feel like [NAITSA has] a nice organic way. I feel like students can [tell when schools] care for [them] and want good stuff for [them],” said Hochhalter. 

After spending eight to twelve hours a day painting on NAIT’s campus, he feels “connected to the space” and sees more mural potential for NAIT in the future.

A mural in Edmonton painted by artist Jordoh. Photo via Rust Magic.

“There’s lots of opportunity for little fragmented parts of each different section of the school that puts something together that goes with a collective whole piece, kind of like a collage…that would be a nice way to stick with the Ooks Life community setting and enable participation from each division of the school.”

Recognizing Alberta’s artistic community

Hochhalter embodies the idea of sharing artistic culture between Edmonton and his hometown Calgary by celebrating large-scale public mural installations. His favourite mural in Edmonton is the Okuda Mural – a colourful, six-story geometric fox located on Gateway Boulevard and produced by Rust Magic International Street Festival in 2018. Like Edmonton’s Rust Magic, Calgary has their own mural initiative.

“[There’s a] program called BUMP, which is the Beltline Urban Murals Project, and they’ve been putting out [up to] three dozen murals a year for the past five years. There’s just a stream of incredible murals coming in every single year,” said Hochhalter.

One of these murals is the biggest in the entire world, standing at 310 feet tall. It was completed by German artist Mirko Reisser in July 2022. Located in Calgary at 123 10 Ave SW, Hochhalter suggested students check this mural out if they’re looking to explore Calgary’s art scene.

“It’s this big abstract design that you can see from so far away and it’s super beautiful and that kind of stuff is really, I find, impacting. Even trying to get to that part of the city, there’s murals everywhere around different corners and subtle little areas, too. They’re not all big and pronounced. [It’s a nice] aesthetic that downtown [Calgary] has now, and the walls just keep on getting better and better. [Even if NAIT students] just come down and explore downtown for half a day, they’ll see so much.”

Practicing creativity as a NAIT student

Hochhalter’s hope is that his murals at NAIT provide inspiration for students to branch out and use creativity in different ways within or outside their program. While students are still studying in Edmonton, Hochhalter has some advice for practicing creativity as a student: “Don’t force it,” he said.

“If you have an opportunity to be creative and you’re not feeling it, just don’t do anything. That’s fine! But then when you are feeling it and you don’t have time, I find writing stuff down really helps. Little notes and ideas here and there, but [you should also] put context and detail alongside those notes,” said Hochhalter. “If you’re on your wave, just ride the wave. Don’t stop…stay up as late as you want, just keep going.”

NAIT students can keep up with Hochhalter by following his Instagram @thoch and tagging him in any mural photos that happen to be on your NAIT Student Bucket List.

“Hopefully there’s more opportunities on the rise to come visit Edmonton, since I love your city a lot…It feels like home.”

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