Community murals to tell the stories of East York

Organizers hope finished art will be included in summer’s ‘Cultural Hotspot’ program

There’s lots happening on the inside of the building with the unlikely address of 1081 1/2 Pape Avenue, south of O’Connor. But the exterior of the East York Community Centre could be said to be nondescript — even institutional.

That may be about to change, however. On Sept. 22, the centre was the venue for an “East York Mural Community Consultation.” The participants talked about turning the big south wall of the building into a colourful — and meaningful — work of art.

The organizers included East York Neighbourhood Initiatives, VIBE Arts, East End Arts and Mary Fragedakis, the councillor for Ward 29/Toronto-Danforth.

The aim is for the mural to be included in next summer’s “Cultural Hotspot” program — when the city will promote East York’s arts scene and other unique aspects.

“We’re interested in creating a mural that is from the ground up. We’re about grassroots,” Julie Frost said. Frost, VIBE Arts executive director and facilitator for the night, was insistent on community involvement in the project. The team also hopes to gain a grant from the city for the project.

“We want to know and hear from the experts,” she said, “and you’re right here in this room — as well as the experts that are out in the rest of the community.”

The consultation was held in part to gather opinions from residents of East York on what they thought should be included in the mural. About 15 individuals gave their feedback in the open forum through responses to written questions such as, “What do you love about your neighbourhood?” and “What is important about the east end neighbourhood?”

“We want to gather those ideas, those visions, those comments, your drawings if you want,” Frost said. “We want to collect them here… so that we can then archive them and write a really good grant for the Cultural Hotspot, get the funding behind this project and then use the material, all those ideas that we’re getting tonight, to inspire the mural that’s going to be on the wall.”

More logistical meetings will take place following the outcome of the grant request. For now, community members are excited about the possibilities.

Marjorie Harriott was among the individuals in attendance at the meeting. In the mural, she sees potential.

“We want to be able to do something that is bringing people together and saying this is our community, this is what we’re doing,” Harriott said. “Let’s go out together.”

Following the Sept. 22 consultation, “pop-up” sessions will now be set up for the East York Community Centre, where the public will be invited to contribute further artistic additions. A professional muralist will help shape the design before mounting the display. Painting and installing the finished project will be a combination of volunteer and paid work for youth in the community.

The mural will be put on panels that will then be mounted on the brick wall.

Tanya Oleksuik, of Toronto’s East End Arts, said that there are also other ways to hear from those who were not able to attend the initial meeting. She highlighted the East End Arts website.

“We’ve also got a form on there,” Oleksuik said, “so that if you were unable to attend… you can still share your thoughts on the same questions that went around the room tonight.”