If a picture’s worth is a 1,000 words, then the worth of a painting spanning a busy multi-lane road must be priceless.
Councillors Michelle Berardinetti (Ward 35) and Gary Crawford (Ward 36) joined artist De Anne Lamirande, her team and community members to celebrate the completion of the Warden Underpass Mural on Oct. 20 with a community celebration and ribbon cutting.
The mural, at Warden Avenue south of Danforth Avenue at Hollis Parkette, depicts Elizabeth Simcoe and the Bluffs on its west side. The Bell Estate historic home is seen on the east wall. Birch and oak trees fill the central column, symbolizing the unification of Ward 35’s Oakridge community and Ward 36’s Birch Cliff neighbourhood.
“People that pass by are part of the art: this is a live art piece,” Lamirande said. “There’re still little things that I’d love to do and add to it, and maybe I’ll come back next spring and do a little more paint.
“We are looking forward to what this bridge will bring because so many people love it.”
The mural took Lamirande and her art team, including Emilia Jajus, Andrew Horne and Emanuel Ciobanica, a year to finish by “adding final touches” even on the morning of the last day.
“It’s been such a joy to do (the mural) for everybody. It’s been my passion and thank you all for coming,” Lamirande said in a public speech through tears. “Thank you to Michelle (Berardinetti)’s office and Gary (Crawford)’s office for helping out and organizing an event rather than just a simple ribbon cutting.”
The mural, which was funded by both the City of Toronto and local arts organization Mural Routes, cost about $50,000, according to Berardinetti.
“We started in 2011 by working with the city and getting the funding,” Berardinetti said. “We got the funding in place by 2012 — it took one year — and then they started on the mural on the east side in 2012. Then they finished on the other side and centre columns in 2013.”
For Berardinetti, the location of this mural is of great importance and significance for her ward.
“In Scarborough, we have a wonderful arts community but we want to grow it,” she said. “We have a lot of murals and a lot of artistic expression downtown but not enough in Scarborough, so this was very important for the residents of Ward 35.”
Apart from the much-needed art expression, Berardinetti said she felt the Oakridge area needed “some sprucing up.”
“It’s a wonderful, dynamic community and we want to continue help improve that,” she said. “In this area, with Oakridge there and Birch Cliff here, we knew that we wanted to have some unification going on, we wanted to make sure it had the history of Scarborough as well as of those two communities.”
People tend to feel much more comfortable and safe within their communities when those communities are home to more art projects like the Warden mural, Berardinetti said.
In addition to the mural’s importance to Scarborough, Crawford said the project grabbed his attention for another reason.
“I am an artist by profession, so I drove by the portrait everyday for the last year watching,” he said. “I think this is a community project that gives us that opportunity to really celebrate.”
Local residents Philip and Bernice Gooding were among the community members at the event and said they felt proud of the mural and what it represents.
“It’s lovely,” Bernice Gooding said. “It brings back the past, it brings back the history of the area and we need that.”
“I’m proud of it because it shows the history, ” Phillip Gooding said. “But unfortunately there’s not much history around it to show.”
“The mural is past, present and future,” Lamirande said.
So what’s next for Scarborough? According to Berardinetti, more murals and more art.
“We’re looking at the underpass at St. Clair and Warden, which is near Warden Station,” she said. “We want to make sure that we’re, again, uplifting the community.
“We want to beautify that space so that people feel comfortable when they are going through.”