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Police investigating damage to LGBT mural

Unspecified object broke glass protecting AGO mural by Vancouver artist Pablo Muñoz

Artist and migrant rights activist Pablo Muñoz stands in front of his award-winning No Walls Between Us mural, on display outside the Art Gallery of Ontario. The mural was damaged when someone threw an unspecified object through the glass the night of Jan 5. Credit: Provided by Pablo Munoz

Toronto police are investigating what may be an act of vandalism aimed at an LGBT mural on the outside west wall of the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO).

AGO security reported to the Toronto Police Service on Jan 6 that an unspecified object had broken the glass protecting No Walls Between Us, a mural by Vancouver-based artist and migrant-rights activist Pablo Muñoz, sometime overnight.

The mural, which depicts two men kissing while separated by a barbed wire fence, was the winner of the 4th Wall Youth Solidarity Project, which was created as a partnership between the AGO and the Michaëlle Jean Foundation in honour of WorldPride in 2014.

Muñoz’s piece was chosen by popular vote. His $1,000 prize also included the opportunity to display the mural outside the AGO, close to the entrance of the Weston Family Learning Centre. On display since fall of 2014, No Walls Between Us is scheduled to be moved to Artscape Youngplace later in 2015.

“That it was broken is evidence that this kind of message, and this kind of work, is still relevant and it needs to go out there,” Muñoz says. He also feels it is an attack on the idea of equality for queer migrants.

Peter Flegel, director of programs and communications at the Michaëlle Jean Foundation, and Caitlin Coull, manager of communications at the AGO, said they had no details about the alleged vandalism and couldn’t speculate on it. Coull also said she did not know specifically what object had gone through the glass.

Flegel told Xtra that staff members at the foundation were disturbed to hear that the mural was damaged. “It is a very powerful piece, which from our perspective very well incarnated the message of solidarity with LGBT youth that we were hoping to convey through the project.”

According to Coull, there was not a large amount of damage to the glass, but because the mural was adhered to the glass, it has been removed until the glass is repaired. She couldn’t say what the cost of the replacing the mural would be but noted that it is never pleasant for a non-profit organization to incur the costs of vandalism. “It does happen from time to time,” she says. “We are right on the street level and we are downtown.”

Constable David Hopkinson, a Toronto Police Service spokesperson, confirmed that a report had been made but could not comment specifically about the ongoing investigation.

Coull told Xtra that AGO staff are working to repair the damage to the glass and have No Walls Between Us back on display as soon as possible.