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Church Street Murals Project brings colour to Toronto’s Village

Murals will animate the community’s history, councillor says

Lily Butter mural at 66A Wellesley St E alley. Credit: Rob Salerno

The Church St Mural Project got its official kick-off at a celebration hosted at the Church Street Bank of Montreal Oct 19, where the artists involved got a chance to talk about their monumental works which will soon be adding a new look to the Village (see photo slideshow above).

The mural project sprang out of a desire to spruce up the neighbourhood and leave a lasting legacy for next year’s WorldPride festivities. Local Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam says she’s been working for the past year to bring together the dozens of stakeholders involved in the project, from property owners, to sponsors, to artists, to community leaders and curators.

“We felt that it had to be a legacy project that would stand in the public arena in the days and years to come,” Wong-Tam says.

Project curator Syrus Marcus Ware says there was a lot of interest from artists to get involved with the project, which allowed the selection committee to choose projects that reflect the community.

“There were 69 submissions, which for this project you couldn’t get a better number,” Ware says. “It was really important that the murals we created weren’t just from one person’s idea but actually out of the stories of the community.”

Most of the supplies needed for the murals were donated by Dulux Paints, Home Depot, and Scafom Canada, while financial sponsorship was provided Bank of Montreal, Tourism Toronto, and Street Art Toronto. The local BIA, the city, the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives, and the Art Gallery of Ontario provided logistical support.

Most of the murals are in the midst of being painted right now, and scaffolding has become ubiquitous around the neighbourhood. The only completed mural so far is Alexa Hatanaka and Patrick Thompson’s “Happy 20th Anniversary,” which can be seen at 552 Church (on the third floor behind Novak Pharmacy).

A total of 11 murals will appear throughout the neighbourhood, at highly-visible locations including the TCHC building at 389 Church St, the facade of Crews/Tangos, the facade and alley-facing walls on 66A and 66B Wellesley St E, and the 519 Community Centre, which will form a sort of gateway to the Village.

William Craddock will be painting a mural inspired by LGBT activist pins he found at the CLGA on the side of 66B Wellesley St, and expects to finish the project by early December.

“The mural is based on a project I did, and it’s a sort of exhibition and oral history project. I’ve been showing pictures of the buttons and collecting personal stories about them,” Craddock says. “A lot of the histories collected from the community feature a select number of voices. They’re usually the prominent activists who led the marches, who organised the groups and were at the start of all those rallies. And I wanted to hear the stories of the people who aren’t as well known but who were there.