Posts

toronto nunavut mural

Nunavut and Toronto Teens Come Together for an Amazing Mural Project

A group of Nunavut and Toronto teens have overcome a myriad of challenges to paint a beautiful mural in Toronto. The teens, part of the collective known as Cape Dorset, have put together Piliriqatigiingniq, “an unprecedented public artwork project” on Toronto’s Church Street. But getting this beautiful project off the ground has been a long and hard endeavour, one that demonstrates the skill and hard work that’s necessary in all stages of any street art project.

nunavut-toronto-teens-mural

The word “piliriqatigiingniq” is, according to the project’s website, is “a pillar of Inuit traditional knowledge, meaning to work together towards a common goal,” and fully displays the talents that young artists have in the lesser known areas of our country. Overall, it took two years to get the mural up, and was made to show off the Inuit art style during this year’s PanAm and Para-PanAm games, which were a resounding success for the city and the country.

At over two storeys in size, the large mural had a hard time finding an appropriate place that could speak to the sheer depth of the project, and the creators thought they had the perfect place in a building on King Street East and Jarvis Street, but the landlord pulled out at the last minute with very little explanation. The sudden change created quite the scramble for a new space, and project directors Alexa Hatanaka and Patrick Thompson started making phone calls all around the city for a new location. “We ended up having to scramble for seven days,” Thompson says, “But we found one with two days to go.” Thompson also said that despite the last minute changes, the outpouring of support was “amazing” and the project ended up in an arguably better location.

That location is a hostel only a block away at Church and Adelaide, which Thompson thinks is thematically appropriate. “It’s the perfect symbol for us,” Thompson said, “It’s a place where people come together from one place to experience a new place.” Both him and Hatanaka were hesitant to get too excited, however, after the last place fell through so quickly. But the newly donated space worked out and now Piliriqatigiingniq is completed and showing off the talent of Canada’s North.

As for the mural itself, the beautiful and brightly-coloured design comes from teen Inuit artist Parr Etidloie. “I heard some stories about my grandfather carrying a snowmobile and they told me to draw it,” the artist told CBC News, “And it worked out.” Etidloie was joined by a local Toronto artist and three of his teenage friends, Audi Qinnuayuaq, Latch Akesuk, Cie Taqiasaq, to complete the project according to his vision, and the response has been overwhelming. Pedestrians and locals congratulated the teens on their hard work, but few of them truly knew the adversity these teens faced in making their project a reality. But now, thanks to the dedication of many people, and a sizeable grant, Toronto can proudly display some art from one of the country’s most isolated areas.

2014 world cup mural being painted

Brazil World Cup Mural

From the first kick-off of Brazil vs. Croatia to Mario Götze’s extra time goal for Germany, this year’s FIFA World Cup was a whirlwind of emotion. Disappointment for Argentina, who made it further than anyone expected, anger for Brazil’s devastating 7-1 loss to Germany, and joy for many other nations. Names were made, legends finished their careers, and nations stood captivated. If the FIFA World Cup proves one thing, it’s that soccer (or football) is truly the world’s game, and one painter decided to put all that emotion into one amazing piece of street art.

Capturing the World Cup’s Intensity and Emotion

Marcos Jambeiro began his mural of the World Cup just days into the tournament, capturing the intensity and emotion as it was happening. The piece was commissioned by ESPN as a testament to what Brazil and the world felt for a month this summer. For the country of Brazil, this mural seems the perfect way to convey this. As Jambeiro said in a recent interview, “When we do a work on the street, it’s a museum that’s open to everyone,” Jambeiro said. “It’s an open cultural center for everyone to come to.”

In fact, major metropolitan sectors have passed laws that only encourage street art. Sao Paulo, for example, has a ban on public advertising like billboards, so there is ample more space for artists to take over and add their own flavour to their cities. In Brazil, street art is exactly like New York in the 70s, except for the complete opposite. Both are covered from street to building tops with graffiti, but in Brazil, it’s part of the culture and entirely encouraged.

Expressing Brazil’s Passion for Football

So when the muralist Marcos Jambeiro told The Washington Post that street art and soccer are essential components of a nation’s identity, he has tapped into something that Brazil is famous for, both in talent and pervasiveness. he connects the two further in his interview: “This is something specific to Brazilians: the spontaneity of playing football, joy,” he said. “Art is in all of this, not just in the painting, but in the song, the joy of playing football.”

Combining World Cup Highlights, World Flags, and Brazilian Points of Interest

Jambeiro combined World Cup highlights, world flags, and the most famous places in Brazil, fully encapsulating what makes these types of sports tournaments so wonderful. Jambeiro also made full use of technology, his smartphone always at the ready to capture famous photos of particularly incredible moments: Neymar’s tragic injury, Guillermo Ochoa’s incredible save in Mexico vs. Croatia, the list goes on. Coupled with the flags weaving in and out of the images, the fans holding their signs and their breaths, Jambeiro’s mural is a testament to all that made the World Cup particularly memorable.

wrigley field mural with mistake

Wrigley Field Mural Mistakes

One of the worst things a muralist can do is not consider where they are painting, doing the right research for what they want to paint in a particular place. Every city, every town has a different energy, different sets of prioritues, and different values. For the muralists who painted the Wrigley Stadium, these mistakes were made. Of course, for people who don’t live in Chicago, the new Wrigley mural was a set of funny circumstances, it was a bit of an insult. Street art celebrates, it discusses, it even mocks, but it should never be wrong from a lack of research.

Wrigley Stadium Mural

The Wrigley Stadium mural went up earlier this year to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs for 98 of those years. It is a large mural, depicting many historical moments that took place in and around that stadium. For Chicago, a town with a rich history that many of its citizens take very seriously, the mural was a testament to the town’s pride and resolve.

The main mistake came from what Cubs spokesman Julian Green described as (and I paraphrase) “incorrect labelling.” Green said in a statement that “[We] worked to source a significant number of photos from outside archives to highlight this wonderful milestone all season long. Unfortunately, the photo featuring Charles Lindbergh was incorrectly labeled in a collection of historical photos we recently acquired for our Cubs archives.” The result was a picture of Charles Lindbergh visiting Comiskey Park, home of the White Sox, not the Cubs.

The Error in The Mural

The error was originally pointed out by Cubs historian Floyd Sullivan, who discovered the mistake and notified the Cubs before mentioning it in his blog. He wasn’t exactly direct, turning the mistake into a game for his readers. Posting some pictures of the mural, Sullivan promised a copy of his upcoming book to the first 5 people who correctly identified the mistake.

The result only made matters worse.

another mural from wrigley field with a mistake

Even More Mural Mistakes

More mistakes were discovered, from misspelt names to incorrect labels. One was discovered initially because the official posted picture actually contained the mistake in the photo’s URL, triggering some people to cross-reference the image to discover the year was wrong. Gabby Hartnett’s name was missing the last ’t’ too, a simple but glaring error after fans started combing over the mural with a fine tooth comb. Other errors included calling Franlkin Roosevelt “President” despite the photo referenced being from before he was elected and a mitt depicting a patch that couldn’t have existed when and where they claimed the image was from.

Officials Fixed The Problems

Thankfully, officials have recognized these mistakes and fixed them, much to the relief of Cubs fans and baseball history fans across the globe. Repairs were made within just a few weeks of Sullivan’s article.

There are a couple of lessons we can learn from the “Wrigley Field gaffes,” as the local media called them. Mostly, research is a street artist’s best friend during the mural design process. Many murals are commemorative, and that requires a certain amount of real dedication and respect for the people who would want the commemoration. The classic “know your audience.” The murals themselves are brilliant and skillfully made, hopefully the quick fixes will help fans enjoy Wrigley Stadium’s newest additions for a long time.

worlds tallest mural

Toronto’s Home the World’s Tallest Mural and a Sign of Local Regrowth

What started as a devastating housing project fire is now a giant piece of art, a sign of a neighbourhood on the rise, and a World Record.

The Fire

Three years ago, a fire ripped through 200 Wellesley Street East in St. James Town, leaving residents homeless and in an already troubled neighbourhood with yet another problem. The residents banded together in those times of need, but they decided to go one step further. Now, thanks to community involvement and some dedicated muralists, St. James Town is home to the world’s tallest mural, one that shows off their indomitable spirit.

At nearly 30 storeys tall, the St. James Town mural is three times higher than the world’s largest mural, the famous Berlin painting created by French company CitéCréation. That mural, a stunning 20,000 feet in size, takes otherwise drab city housing projects and gives them new life, just like the mural here in Toronto. But where Berlin’s mural incorporates trees and nature to blend the concrete into a nearby park and zoo, the St. James Town mural doesn’t blend in or try to be natural. Instead, it heads to mythical majesty, and a powerful metaphor.

The Rising Phoenix

The mural depicts a large Phoenix rising from the ashes, a fitting metaphor for the building’s history and a signal to St. James Town’s future. Phoenixes are known for being born from fire, for rising from a tragedy as something more powerful and beautiful than what came before, and certainly this Phoenix is a symbol for rebirth and rebuilding in the distinctive and hardy Toronto neighbourhood. This part of town has known hard times, from poverty to overcrowding, but from tragedies like the building fire is an opportunity to rise, to fly.

And while the Berlin mural was the work of a private company, this mural is the combined efforts of and local artists, excited citizens, and some help from the STEPS Artivist program, led by Toronto artists Jason Rouleau, Ryan Dineen, and Sean Martindale. The mural is just one of the STEPS (Sustainable Thinking and Expression on Public Space) Initiative’s projects, but certainly their largest to date. The initiative was started to employ artists and local citizens in using Toronto’s ample public space for more, brightening and demonstrating the important role artists can play in helping neighbourhoods through public space projects. Previous work includes pop bottle planters and construction site painting, smaller projects making public spaces more usable and beautiful.

Bringing Regrowth

But when STEPS decided on doing something in St. James Town after the fire, the neighbourhood started throwing ideas out for how to bring a positive message of regrowth to the area, and the show everyone the St. James Town’s positive message of growth. Once the mural was decided on, certainly not the strangest of ideas tossed around, STEPS contacted local and internationally-renowned artist Sean Martindale for design and organization. With Martindale’s leadership, STEPS and local muralist company Toronto Muralists were able to convert the fire tragedy into something making people notice St. James Town’s spirit.

And while the Phoenix certainly represents this sentiment, the base of the mural shows the diversity and local participation of St. James Town residents. All along the base, young and aspiring artists from the neighbourhood were encouraged to add their own  stories, creating a mosaic of smaller paintings at the mural’s base that culminate in the larger Phoenix higher up which, for obvious reasons, couldn’t be completed by untrained professionals. Toronto Muralists, Jason Rouleau and Ryan Dineen handled the mural’s higher portions, using a bright and distinct colour palette to increase the project’s visibility.

Tallest Mural Of It’s Day

To put the project is perspective, America’s tallest mural is located in Atlanta stands at 15 storeys. Asia’s tallest mural stands at 20 storeys tall, making Wellesley’s glowing Phoenix uses 29 of its social modernist housing project’s 32 storeys. At a full 10 storeys taller than its closest competition, 200 Wellesley is the tallest and brightest of each of these murals. Our team was honored to aid in the painting of this iconic Toronto mural.

The mural was officially unveiled in September and St. James Town residents noticed a change in the neighbourhood almost immediately. Because of its location, St. James Town experiences a lot of traffic but few stops. Despite its high density population, St. James Town remains a thoroughfare, not a destination, until recently. The mural was unveiled at the St. James Town festival, a fitting celebration of the neighbourhood, and a chance to show their spirit. Now, the mural turns heads, attracts curious onlookers, and is helping St. James Town be less of a necessary road and more a place to stop and enjoy.

The Phoenix, it seems, is already doing its job.

Portfolio Items