MRU Library Blog

Wreck City Artists Use Art to Start a Conversation


Standing: University of Arkansas Librarian/Artist, Marianne R. Williams. Seated: Visual Artist, Frédéric Bigras-Burrogano


A Librarian from the University of Arkansas and a visual artist from Montreal will spend two weeks working on a project in the MRU Library Maker Studio that is meant to conjure questions with no definite answers—It’s all part of the fun.

What is art? What is art worth? How should we access it?

These are some of the questions Marianne R. Williams and Frédéric Bigras-Burrogano hope attendees of their upcoming exhibit ponder. The two make up Long Distance Call, a collective that is a member of the Wreck City artist residency. The Wreck City Public Exhibition kicks off in Marda Loop this weekend and the duo are busy taking found objects and recreating them using equipment in the Maker Studio.

A corkscrew and empty perfume bottle found in the streets of Marda Loop, and a fork from a restaurant in the area are either being reproduced with the help of a 3D printer or revamped with a laser cutter. Williams and Burrogano invite members of the community to attend the exhibit, engage with this found art, and offer money or exchange for a piece to take home.

“People can offer a price, an item of their own to trade, or simply answer a few questions to keep a piece,” says Williams who explains that it’s not about the money, it’s about allowing the public to question and consider the process of bartering and how art is consumed. It’s also a conscious way to make art accessible to everyone.

Left: Corkscrew made from found pieces in Marda Loop. Right: Recreated version of the corkscrew made with a 3D printer in the Maker Studio


Wreck City was founded in 2013 as an independent collective that organizes experimental contemporary art exhibitions in pre-demolition spaces throughout Calgary. This multi-venue exhibition, which takes place July 27 – August 12, falls in line with this mandate as the Long Distance Call exhibit will be hosted at a site in Marda Loop that will soon be an area of construction where a 70-unit residential and retail building will be located.

Williams and Burrogano say the exhibit is meaningful in that it allows their work to be part of a larger conversation around gentrification, conservation and how we respond to space surrounding us. They acknowledge that a project like this wouldn’t be possible without the support of the development company that’s allowing the artists to utilize the area before construction begins and a key resource close by that gives them a space to fully realize their vision.

“This project couldn’t have been possible without this Maker Studio. It’s the best one in the city and everyone here has been so welcoming,” says Burrogano.

Maker Studio Specialist, Kerry Harmer graciously receives the duo’s gratitude but makes a point to acknowledge how she’s able to push the boundaries of the year old space with diverse projects.

“Having artists in the Maker Studio is a learning experience for Maker Studio staff because artists push the technologies to their limits in order to achieve experimental and unexpected outcomes,” explains Harmer. “This kind of experimentation allows us to learn about our tools with the artist.”

At the end of this week, Burrogano will go back home to Montreal and Williams will head to Fayetteville where she works as a Librarian-in-Residence at the University of Arkansas. Williams has conducted research on information literacy, diversity, and inclusion.

The Long Distance Call exhibit will play off the standard garage sale model and will take place at 2240 33 Avenue SW, this Friday, July 27 at 7pm. Money collected through sales will be donated to an organization in the community.

Elementary Students Get an Introduction to STEM in the Library


Those who frequent the Mount Royal University Library may have noticed a group of students scamper through our hallways last week that stood out from learners we often spot across campus. They are small in stature and had formal snack breaks scheduled into their days, but they kept busy using our technology to connect with NASA and flexed their coding and design skills with robotics. Don’t let the endless giggles and chatter fool you, this was a scholarly crew.

The grade three students from Sunnyside School spent a week learning new skills outside of their classroom at a STEM Learning Lab and Campus Calgary Open Minds (CCOM) program that goes by the name of Social Enterprise School. The goal is to expose elementary students to real-world, experiential learning.

Due to construction delays at the STEM Learning Lab building—the usual program site— organizers reached out to the MRU Library for an opportunity to introduce the students to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) skills in our future Maker Studio, which happens to be the ideal location for burgeoning innovators.

“We are counting down the days until the September launch of our permanent Maker Studio, which will have even more equipment, materials and software that support Mount Royal University than the current temporary studio”, says Katharine Barrette, Associate University Librarian, Public Services. “Until the launch, that space is used for various educational programs and as open study and collaboration space, so when Calgary Campus Open Minds approached us in need of a temporary location we were happy to welcome students from Sunnyside School knowing it would facilitate similar pursuits.”

The students were busy with a variety of projects that included coding with Scratch—a visual programming software that allows children to create interactive stories. They also watched On The Way To School, a film that documents the dangerous obstacles four children from Kenya, Morocco, Southern India and Patagonia must overcome to access their classroom and receive an education. Zibusiso (Zee) Mafaiti from STEM Learning Lab was the program facilitator for the week and made a point to allow students to discuss how they felt after watching the film, followed up with design and robotics by recreating various objects they spotted in the feature that resonated with students.

Mafaiti said he was thrilled to learn the future Maker Studio would be the primary location where he would instruct students for the week.

“These are the environments we thrive in. The building is so futuristic and that really excited us,” said Mafaiti who is a scientist and educator.

He added that hearing directly from the children about how much they were enjoying themselves is truly the ultimate reward.

“One said to me, ‘This is the funnest day of my life’, they don’t want to go home at the end of the day,” said Mafaiti with a wide smile as he recalled the conversation.

The 25 Sunnyside students ended the week on a high note with a Skype call from Laura Lucier, a Canadian NASA engineer, in the Visualization Classroom. They learned how robotics and sensors are used to control the Canadarm2—a 17 metre-long robotic arm that has serviced the International Space Station (ISS) since 2001— and the variety of challenges that arise at ISS.

Calgary Campus Open Minds is available to all Calgary students and teachers interested in moving their classroom into the community for an entire week.

Broadcast Students Feature the Maker Studio in Class Project

Three students from the Bachelor of Communication—Broadcast Media Studies program showcased the Maker Studio space for a class project that had them plan, shoot, and edit a short video. The one minute feature illustrates how to book an appointment in the studio and the equipment students, faculty and general community members are able to access.

Joshua Barnett along with classmates Alyssa Plausteiner and Makayla Berze-Rai are the creators of this project, which was assigned to them through their COMM 1405 – Writing for Digital Video course.

Barnett says groups were assigned in February and the subject of the video came down to a small piece of paper they selected from a hat. The biggest challenge was learning to operate the professional cameras they were given access to, Barnett adds, but their effort definitely feels worthwhile now that they can watch the finished piece.

We are also very pleased with the end result and applaud the hard work that went into this project. Take a look and see if you spot equipment you may want to come and try out. You can drop in the Maker Studio Monday-Friday 10am-2pm or schedule an appointment.