2016 leslieville mural painted by elicser

New Leslieville Mural Celebrates Local History

Toronto is one of the great cities of the world, a diverse metropolis with a rich history, progressive citizenship and, of course, beautiful street art. In fact, Toronto’s art scene has only grown with the city itself and people in almost every neighbourhood can point to beautiful, community-focused public art projects. In Kensington Market, the road is adorned with beautiful food graphics promoting the area’s food scene. In St. James Town, people can see the now-famous phoenix mural soaring on a prominent apartment building. And now, Leslieville has its very own mural that celebrates its past and looks towards its future.

Unveiled in September, the mural is a depiction of Alexander Muir sitting under the Maple Leaf Forever tree, which was destroyed during a storm three years ago. Muir, a Toronto poet, educator, soldier and songwriter, was the first principal of the Leslieville Public school and grew up in the area. Appropriately enough, the tree under which he sits in the mural is named after his most famous song, “Maple Leaf Forever.” The mural was painted by local muralist and artist Elicser Elliot and can be seen at the corner of Queen Street East and Jones Avenue.

The mural itself is actually covering up a mural that was created by a group of students twelve years ago. That mural, having since deteriorated and suffered vandalism, was in dire need of updating or repair. But, according to local copyright laws and regulations, the original creators were the only ones allowed to alter or restore the mural. Since their names have been scratched off or painted over, that became next to impossible.

2016 leslieville mural painted by elicser

2016 Leslieville mural painted by Elicser

Replacing the old mural has involved years of hard work by many members of the Leslieville community, who saw collaboration as a key aspect of the new mural. According to Inside Toronto, “Volunteers from the Leslieville Historical Society, members of the Leslieville Business Improvement Area, residents, and Elia, in partnership with the Ralph Thornton Community Centre and Ward 30 Councillor Fletcher’s office, formed a steering committee to discuss the future of the landmark site.”

old leslieville mural painted by students 12 years ago

The old Leslieville mural – damage is clearly visible.

Once a plan was in place, they secured grant funding from the city and mural designs started to pour in. Eventually, the selection process came down to just three artists: Dan Bergeron, Elicser Elliott, and Mediah. To make the final decision, local residents and business owners were invited to Project Gallery to decide on which mural they wanted. Elicser Elliott, often known more simply as ‘Elicser,’ had his design chosen and it was soon installed.

Leslieville has a long and rich history with a number of famous people who have contributed to its identity and success. Now, it continues that tradition with its latest mural, all while contributing to Toronto’s blossoming and diverse art scene.

celebrating wall to wall mural festival in winnipeg

Winnipeg Hosts Month-long Wall-to-Wall Festival

Last September, Winnipeg’s north end was home to a month-long celebration of public art. The event was called the Wall-to-Wall festival and was put on by Winnipeg’s Synonym Art Consultation. It also gave a facelift to one part of the city that could use more colour and artistic celebration.

The Consultation organized two groups of artists to create two gigantic murals that are now part of Winnipeg’s north end. One group, headed by a 17 year-old artist from Nunavut named Parr Josephee, created a mural that you can now see at 611 Main Street. The other group, lead by local artist Kenneth Lavallee, painted a mural dedicated to murdered and missing Indigenous women. “I’m from the North End, too, so this is my hood. It’s a way of having some ownership of your neighbourhood,” Lavallee said in an interview with Metro News. “The idea was to dedicate it to the cause of missing and murdered aboriginal women and have a nice, subtle way to say, ‘hey, we’re still here, we’re still important.’”

mural from wall to wall in winnipeg

Josephee designed her mural with South-American artist pair Bruno Smoky and Shalak Attack. The piece focuses on proposed seismic tests that may occur in Clyde River, which Inuit fear will affect narwhal and other marine mammals. The piece features “features two narwhals with lungs full of water and other life.” Josephee says the piece is in solidarity with that fight.

Josephee is also excited to contribute to Winnipeg’s growing art scene. “It’s amazing,” she said in an interview with the CBC. “When I was younger, I didn’t think I was going to be a part of any murals or anything. I wasn’t expecting this and I’m so happy I’m a part of this.”

aerial view of mural from wall to wall mural festival in winnipeg

Winnipeg artists and volunteers got a little help from outside the city as well. The Toronto-based art collective PA Systems also came out to help organize, prime walls, and paint the murals. A member of the group, Alexa Hatanaka, says public art is an important part of the modern world because it engages people in their everyday lives. “Public art really engages people in a way that’s different,” she told Metro News. “There are so many difficult things we face on this planet that sometimes it’s hard to sit down on the computer and read about it. But art engages you in a different way to start thinking about important issues. I think it’s special in that way.”

The Wall-to-Wall’s willingness to be political and help beautify an area of their city proves that art festivals can be about much more than aesthetics. These pieces reflect real struggles facing communities across the country and in their immediate area, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of the festival volunteers.

street mural being painted on a street in Toronto, ON

Toronto Road Murals Cause Stir

When you walk through Kensington Market in Toronto, the last thing you would consider out of character is drawings on the street. The longtime hub for vintage clothing, quirky bars, and hipster dining establishments, the area has built a reputation on being very different from the rest of Toronto. But this year, artist proposals for a road mural caused more than a disagreement, it turned into a fight at City Hall.

Last year, Toronto’s city councilors considered banning road murals, citing that they “place considerable administrative, regulatory, and maintenance burdens on the city.” The decision was met with considerable opposition by local artists and community members, who say public art installations can beautify and bring people together.

For one local resident in particular, Dave Meslin, the reasons for the potential ban didn’t make any sense. “We’re not asking for money. We’re not asking for staff to come and help us paint,” he told Metro News earlier this year. “We’re just asking for permission.”

With the potential backlash from community leaders and residents in different parts of Toronto, the City decided instead to opt for a pilot program. From August to October of this year, they allowed street mural painting on specific streets in Kensington Market. The designs, materials, and the process would all have to be put through the project for review, but ultimately the program went ahead.

With permission to move forward, the Kensington Market business association found artist Victor Fraser, who stenciled all the paintings for the mural. Community members were then invited to paint in the drawings. A special vinyl paint was used for all of the murals, which is supposed to last for six to nine months and withstand rain, snow, and more.

Artist Victor Fraser decided to highlight Kensington Market’s famous food scene, creating images of fresh foods that draw on computer iconography. “A lot of people work on the computer, and they don’t realize the reality of reality,” he told The Toronto Star in an interview. “I tried to represent their computer styles, which is very choppy, crisp, and hard, and that’s the best way to have vegetables.”

The street murals have now all been completed as of October, 2016 and have each elevated the beauty and artistic wealth of the area, and indeed the city. The collaborative effort at every step, from the fight to have the murals to the design of the items to the interactive elements in their creation, the murals represent how a community can lobby, design, and create something that betters their neighbourhood.

The pilot project may result in four more murals for the Kensington Market area but the idea is spreading to other areas of the city. Community activist Dave Meslin hopes these types of projects will be more common and widespread throughout Toronto.

david a smith sign writer rendering gold leaf on glass reverse sign of his name

Artist Profile: David A. Smith

Sign painting is one of the oldest forms of art we have, one that has seen rises and falls in popularity, style, and prevalence. One thing the genre has never lacked is talent, and perhaps the most well-known sign painter in the world has dedicated his life to creating beautiful signs and teaching other artists about the craft and the industry. His name is David A. Smith, and he may just be the most popular sign painter in the world.

Smith got his start in the 1980s when he left school to become an apprentice sign painter with Gordon Farr and two of his associates. He spent the next five years learning the skills of the trade. His teacher, Farr, was a unique teacher, one who “had an almost uncanny ability to paint letters, accurately laid out, without even a preliminary sketch,” according to Smith’s website. It was during this time Smith learned about drafting, letter painting, and how to draw beautiful pictorials.

a book cover rendered by david a smith

By 1992, Smith had opened his own sign painter shop in his hometown of Torquay and specialized in everything from “vehicle graphics to 3D installations.” But it wasn’t until a fateful trip to New Zealand that Smith met Rick Glawson, one of the world’s best-regarded sign painters and a member of the world-famous Fine Gold Sign Company. Glawson was “universally regarded by his peers as the godfather of gilding, with a reputation for sharing his encyclopedic knowledge of glass decoration with eager students of the craft,” and Smith soon became his close friend. Smith learned many new and important lessons about sign painting from his new mentor.

hand made font image rendered with pencil by david a smith

Smith eventually sold his painting shop and now focuses more on Victorian-style glass painting, creating beautiful and intricate works that are sold and showcased around the world. He also teaches and educates artists in the many skills he’s learned from those before him, including Gordon Farr and Rick Glawson. Smith views his educational work as paying the debt forward and “shares the fruits of his study with his many friends, old & new, in the sign trade, through courses, step by step instruction and one-to-one chats on the phone or internet.”

glass emblem gold leaf design rendered by signwriter david a smith

If you are a sign painter or a fan of sign painting, you have probably heard of David A. Smith. His work has become the standard by which glass window signs are judged, not only for their ingenuity and craftsmanship but for their distinctive design. Smith continues to create beautiful pieces of art in the world of sign painting, but also dedicated much of his time to teaching the next generation of sign painters. While sign painting has dwindled in prevalence since Smith began his career, his talent and passion for education ensures that the art will be with us now and into the future.