Crossing the bridge with Kay Burns

Back in October 2011 I attended events for Alberta Eugenics Awareness Week, hosted by the Living Archives project. One event was very close to my heart. It was a talk called “Perambulate” given by Kay Burns on October 22nd at Enterprise Square. Kay is an artist whose work has been shown across the world. She was an art curator at the Muttart Gallery in Calgary, and taught at the University of Calgary and Alberta College of Art and Design. Today Kate lives in Lewisporte, Newfoundland.

Last summer, Kay presented a “participational performance walk” called Perambulate: Louise McKinney Park, for the Works Art and Design Festival in Edmonton. On the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council website, Kay says why she chose to focus on Louise McKinney. At each end of the footbridge, Kay attached a brass plaque engraved with the words Leilani Muir Footbridge. During the walk, she led a group of people from one end of the bridge to the other, stopping to look at the plaques.

Crossing together
One day, about a month after the art walk took place, I heard from a friend that there was a footbridge named after me in the river valley! I was very surprised, and wanted to find out more. I learned that the bridge was dedicated to me in an unofficial way as part of Kay’s performance. I never imagined I’d have a chance to walk across the footbridge with the artist herself. But I did just that on the day of her lecture in Enterprise Square. After the talk, a group of university students, researchers and friends piled into cars and drove with me to Louise McKinney Park.

It was a beautiful, warm fall day. We often have snow on the ground in Edmonton at the end of October, but not that day. My friends Judy and I each stopped to admire the roses in the park, on our walk down to the river. We finally reached the others, who were waiting at the opposite end of the bridge. Someone took out a piece of paper, and Kay made a pencil rubbing of the brass plaque. We laughed and talked together, and shared a very special moment. I came a long way to cross that bridge, and was so grateful to make it to the other side.

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