Mural on Horizon Housing building honours Violet King, the first Black woman lawyer in Canada

One of Horizon Housing’s buildings received a beautiful facelift thanks to the Beltline Urban Murals Project (BUMP) and artist Curtia Wright.

Violet King, first Black female lawyer in Canada, is depicted in a mural on Horizon 12.

The mural, on our building along 12 Avenue SW, is explained by Wright in her mural statement. “My design is based on the first Black woman lawyer in Canada, Violet King. I choose to depict her in my design not only due to her connection to Alberta, being born in Calgary October 18th 1929, but for her prevalence as a figure of Canadian history. Violet was an adamant purveyor of justice, practicing criminal law in Calgary and later in the US. This mural will serve as a memorial and celebration of King’s life and legacy, with a hope that more folks will learn about her story.”

Along with being the first Black person to graduate law in Alberta and the first Black person to be admitted to the Alberta Bar, King was the first woman named to a senior management position with the American national YMCA. Further back, her father and extended family moved to Amber Valley in 1911 as part of a group of Black farmers from the African diaspora who migrated from Oklahoma to Alberta, both as part of the Great Migration and to avoid racist laws. This documentary tells their story and features King at the end.

As part of the process, Horizon Housing was able to choose the artist and their creative concept. The organization chose Wright, a fine artist, mural artist, illustrator and arts educator, because of her focus on telling stories of Black people of the African diaspora. Her artwork re-imagines reality using elements of fantasy, surrealism often mixing in historical and pop culture components. Using bold and vibrant colour, she aims to transport audiences to alternate worlds for a moment in time.

The artist-focused initiative is community led by BUMP, which began in 2017. The concept has expanded tremendously into a city-wide street art festival that reimagines public spaces through the visual arts and expands the capacity of the local arts community. A diverse jury selects from among local, national and international artists for the BUMP Festival’s annual exhibition of new mural and graffiti works on the streets of Calgary.

The mural is located at Horizon 12, a 33-unit building for women. The building opened in February 2022. Since 1976, Horizon Housing has been providing affordable, integrated and supportive homes to vulnerable Calgarians. The organization owns and operates nearly 1,000 units in 12 apartment buildings and owns nine supported group homes.