On the wall by the front entrance of Turning Point is a mural of a buffalo and the symbol of Alberta with the LGBTQ colours going through it. It was all created by local artist Ryan Jason Allen Willert.
Willert, who currently lives in Red Deer, has been a full-time artist for about 16 years and a professional artist for the last three and a half.
His recent project for Turning Point took him around three weeks to complete, and it’s something that is close to his heart.
When he first moved to Red Deer, he was about 15 or 16 years old and the family he was staying with at the time sent him to what is now the Native Friendship Centre.
He spent a lot of time there as a teen, and when he was younger, he lived on the streets for a good three to four years – both in Red Deer and Calgary.
“There were centres like Turning Point in Calgary. They really took care of people like us on the streets and they treated us like human beings. It was nice to have those people out there watching over us and taking care of us.”
It has been 15 years since Willert has lived on the streets. At that time in his life, they didn’t have a place like Turning Point when he was in Red Deer, but when he moved to Calgary there were places like that, which, he said, made it a bit more bearable.
Although he never used Turning Point’s services, he wanted to show them that he appreciates the work they do.
“Turning Point is really out there in the community and they’re taking care of the people out there – not just street people, but all people. They have a big soft spot in my heart. I like that they’re out there treating people like human beings.”
He said that the mural he painted is of acceptance, love and compassion.
“Also, with the buffalo in my society – in Blackfoot Society – the reason I always paint the buffalo motif is because the buffalo always runs towards the storm instead of away from it. At the end of every storm is sunshine and it’s a good thing to use when someone’s trying to heal and trying to work on themselves.”
The other mural he painted runs along the back of Turning Point’s building, covering a lot of the graffiti. Willert primed the wall black, painting his signature tribal work on the wall.
Coming up, Willert will be taking part in his first solo art show Nov. 3rd at The Dandelion in Calgary from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
More of his work can be found on his Instagram at Stone Growth.