Artist, comic illustrator and muralist Kat Simmers from Bashaw is representing Alberta in Purolator’s 2022 limited-edition holiday boxes, a campaign celebrating emerging Canadian artists.
Simmers was one of 13 artists who were chosen to participate in the campaign, with one artist from each province and territory. Each artist was nominated by a previous participant.
This year’s collection celebrates Canadian holiday traditions and supports community food banks across the country.
“The unique boxes promote new talent across the country and provide a festive way to ship parcels during the holidays,” states Purolator on their website.
Simmers chose to portray the diversity of Canadians while incorporating the theme of meal traditions and coming together around the holidays.
Inspired by some of their favourite Alberta locations such as Waterton National Park, Kananaskis Provincial Park and the Plains of Abraham, Simmers created a sprawling winter scene that shows diverse people and cultures involved in various activities on a frozen mountain lake.
Simmers said their design, created primarily with Procreate and finished with Photoshop, is about the opportunity for all Canadians to see themselves represented in the work.
“I wanted to show the sort of community, kinship, and support we can show each other through the darkest and coldest days of the year,” said Simmers.
“I became really enamoured with the potential for a huge scene populated by a multitude of diverse stories and connections.”
They said 23 per cent of Canada’s current population are of, or from, permanent resident or landed immigrant status.
“I felt it was important to create a landscape populated by demographics as diverse as our nation really is today.”
As part of Simmers’ participation, Purolator is donating $5,000 to Food Banks Alberta.
Launched Nov. 1, all 13 boxes are available for shipping with Purolator Express service at Purolator Shipping Centres at no extra cost.
Simmers was born and raised in Bashaw, residing there until they moved away at age 18 to attend the visual arts diploma program at Red Deer College (now Polytechnic).
“I stayed well connected to the community through my years at Red Deer, returning home almost every weekend to see friends and family.
“It wasn’t until I ventured off to study at Sheridan, and later at ACAD (Now AuArts) that I really set off on my own.”
Simmers said their time in the Bashaw Community Theatre was what really inspired them to pursue their creative passion.
They spent about six years with the theatre group, participating in ensemble roles in Jesus Christ Superstar, A Christmas Carol, Aida, Big River and Tom Sawyer, as well as a feature role as Orin in Little Shop of Horrors.
“The Bashaw Community Theatre group was one of the most welcoming, encouraging and inspiring environments I could have asked for as a teenager,” said Simmers.
“The sense of community created in those rehearsals and in performances is probably the first place I could imagine myself as something of a star,” they said.
“I’m honestly still so inspired by director Lori Miller, musical director Robin King and producer Jackie Northey. They really showed me how important art can be for a community at any scale.”
After a busy mural season, Simmers is happily back at work on their graphic novel series Pass Me By.
Following months of writing with co-creator Ryan Danny Owen, Simmers has begun the process of illustrating their completed manuscript for book three in the series, which is scheduled to launch in fall, 2024.
The first two books have both received provincial awards from the book Publishers Association of Alberta.
The co-creators were also nominated for Best Emerging Talent at the 2022 Doug Wright Awards (Canada’s premier national comics awards).
Simmers uses comic media and street art to “connect seemingly disparate worlds.”
Their art can be seen around Calgary, where they now live, as well as Bashaw.