By Adi Berardini
The OEV Main Street Mural Program aims to build community and beautify the streetscape of Old East Village. Five artist mentee and mentor pairs have been placed together to complete murals down Dundas Street on the main strip of the Old East Village corridor. Through this program, new artist partnerships are facilitated, creating new mentorship opportunities. The mural installations are an integral part of the upcoming event series called Only in OEV Fridays, with the first event happening on June 10 from 3 to 8 pm. In addition to the live mural painting, there will be a Bike Rodeo in the Squeaky Wheel Bike Co-op Parking lot, live music, art and heritage tours, a photo booth, and even more on-street activities.
The first of the mural locations is on the east-facing side of 623 Dundas St. Owners Jeff Pastorius, Ellie Cook and Aaron Lawrence run On the Move Organics, a local, organic grocery service rooted in community and sustainability. As Ellie states, “We’re excited about showing a visual representation of how resilient and sustainable food systems can build community and enrich neighbourhoods. We’re also really excited about incorporating honey bees, since they provide an amazing model for how to live and work cooperatively.”
“The painting encourages and celebrates cultivating and eating locally grown food which brings us together in ethos and sustainability.”
Artist pair mentor Tova Hasiwar and mentee Sylvie Verwaayen describe how the mural “weaves 21 colours together to create a beautiful landscape just as diverse as our OEV community.” This artist pair demonstrates not only the power behind a duo of two women artists in a male-dominated field of mural art but also that age is just a number. Mentor Tova Hasiwar is an experienced muralist with seven years of experience, with large-scale projects for Pride Toronto and Nuit Blanche under her belt. Although Sylvie is a mentee, she is an established artist with many years of painting experience, looking to venture into the realm of public art. The partnership has shown that each artist has their own skills and experience to bring to the project—and one that isn’t a small feat since the mural is on a two-story wall. As the artists explain, “the painting encourages and celebrates cultivating and eating locally grown food which brings us together in ethos and sustainability.”
Happening across the street is a mural that celebrates the beauty of a diverse community at K-laba Hair and Beauty Supplies Co. by artist pair mentor Amsa Yaro and mentee Rain Bloodworth. K-laba specializes in wigs, braids, weaves, and extensions, as well as a wide range of hair care products and beauty supplies. Recently, the store celebrated the exciting milestone of its 25th anniversary.
As K-laba Hair and Beauty Supplies Co. owner Angella Kyabaggu explains, “We wanted to create something to represent the community as a whole and something to promote integration and inclusion because we started in the east end, and we were the ones who brought hair care to the London area way back 25 years ago for the Black community. But we’re also not just for the Black community. We’re for everyone, you know, reaching LGBTQ+ and clients with chemotherapy and alopecia. Something community-based that could represent London.”
Mentor Amsa Yaro is from Nigeria and is active in the local arts scene here in London. She has prior experience with public art through participating in the Dundas Place murals downtown and traffic box art organized by the London Arts Council. She explains, “working on this mural is exciting. It’s not just about having a canvas this big but being able to impact the community with a celebration of talent and many colours.” Mentee Rain Bloodworth is a Visual Arts student at Western University who has a distinctive illustrative style that she brings to the mural design. As Rain adds, “Making work in public reconnects you with people and you remember why you make art. Art is more than the process or product, it’s also about how it makes people feel and the impact it has on a community. Everybody I’ve met has been so excited and grateful for this project; knowing my work has brought joy is what keeps me creating.”
Make sure to check out the upcoming Only in OEV Fridays event coming up on June 10th from 3 pm to 8 pm on Dundas St from Adelaide to Ontario!
Author’s Note: This article is documenting a Mural Program I have helped organize and is published in collaboration with the Old East Village BIA. You can also read it on oldeastvillage.com.