Murals In The East

From art walks and crawls to recently opened paint lounges, Toronto’s creative juices are definitely flowing. As the east changes, artists are making their presence known, and business owners are claiming space with a number of new murals. The new influx of large-scale art walls is the result of private commissions, added efforts by neighbourhood beautification committees, and the City of Toronto itself. With so many new pieces going up, we thought we’d document some and help share the stories behind them.

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Leslieville Mural at Jones Avenue and Queen Street East
Leslieville’s Hollywood Sign: the mural, located on the side of Meating on Queen Street East at Jones Avenue, is a neighbourhood staple that was put up in early 2010. The image features a portrait of Alexander Muir, the author of “The Maple Leaf Forever,” and the tree that inspired the poem with the words “Leslieville” emblazoned the wall. In 2015, much to local residence’s dismay, it was announced that the city would redesign the locally famed wall with a new look. “I’m just going to call this a really complicated mural,” City Councilor Paula Fletcher told The Toronto Star on the decision to cover up the artwork. 

The mural, specifically the portrait of Alexander, has been a prime target for vandalism. Due to the constant upkeep of the piece, the City was looking to refresh the mural, but there was one issue: no one knows who the original designer is. Copyright law in Canada states that large changes are to be done or approved by the original artist, and with no artist to contact for changes, the city decided to have the wall overhauled completely. Over the past year, submissions were accepted for proposed designs, and in April it was announced that artist Elicser would breathe new life onto the wall (see the winning design above).

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Jimmy Chiale Piece at Pape Avenue and Dundas Street East
In June, the entire east was buzzing about the new independent art piece that was put up on the side of a residential home at the corner of Pape Avenue and Dundas Street East. The stretch of Dundas Avenue East between Carlaw Avenue to Greenwood Avenue was in much need of some uplifting, as the roadside is mainly filled with blank outer home walls, personal car garages for other residences, and some small, front-facing homes. This is what remained from the 1950s project to demolish homes and create the Dundas Street East we know today. Earlier this summer, a private resident decided to take the blank canvas of their home’s exterior wall and hire Jimmy Chiale to create a pop of colour and excitement on it. Chiale is a Toronto-based artist that has also done work across the city, including Heineken’s #ShapeYourCity campaign. You can catch this beauty in person on the corner of Pape Avenue and Dundas Street East (hopefully indefinitely).

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Ralph Thorton Centre
Riverside is about to get a whole lot more colourful! The small parking lot beside Ralph Thorton Centre has been selected to get a large piece of art installed on its outer wall. Funded by the City of Toronto Mural Grant, local artist Nick Sweetman designed and will install the new piece. The fun and vibrant design features bees, pollination, clocks and time. A statement released by the Riverside BIA explains the imagry:

“Edelstein as a jeweler and clockmaker is a great metaphor for the pollinator — someone working hard on tiny things with thousands of tiny moving parts, largely out of sight, just quietly working, but the things they produce, their work, has enormous effects outside the workshop […] The gears represent small things working together to make big things happen — like bees in a hive or neighbours in a community. Like clockmakers, pollinators are important members of society and their toils must be given proper respect, because they play an essential role in the community in allowing it thrive and exist.”

Production has already begun and we can’t wait for the grand unveiling!

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Project Seven New Wonders of the World
The external walls of Chinatown East at Broadview Avenue and Gerrard Street East have been a ripe playground for graffiti tags and vandalism. This is all coming to screeching halt with a new initiative that is being funded and organized by StreetARToronto, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, the Toronto Parking Authority and 55 Division. The project launched on August 5th and will go through until August 25th. It’s aiming to bring large-scale murals on seven different buildings depicting the seven wonders of the world. Twenty artists (led by Mike Kennedy) will design and execute the murals of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, The Taj Mahal in India, Machu Picchu in Peru, Chichen Itza in Yucatán, The Colosseum in Rome, Petra in Jordan, and The Great Wall in China. The project has been an extensive one that has included over a dozen Riverdale Collegiate students who helped plan and prep the walls and brought together many community organizers to collaborate on the project. “I thought, let’s do something different to bring people to the neighbourhood,” Kennedy told Inside Toronto. Over the next week, you’ll see the artists in action, or visit the neighbourhood in the fall to take in the entire completed project.

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Jimi Hendrix at Hastings Avenue and Queen Street East
For those who are east side natives, the Jimi Hendrix mural that was painted on the side of Hastings Avenue and Queen Street East is a nostalgic favourite. Originally painted in the late 1980s on the side of what was a guitar shop, it was a neighbourhood staple until 2011, when new owners took over the building. Along with a complete gutting of the retail spaces, they decided to cover up the mural, much to the neighbourhood’s discontent. Instead, they proposed creating a space where new murals could be put up like billboards to showcase a rotation of local artists. A high-quality image was taken of the original Jimi mural and it was the first piece of art to be displayed outside the new building but was eventually changed. Since then, Jimi has been intermittently put up for short periods of time over the past few years, with the latest appearance on August 1st for only one week.

What are you favourite mural on display in the east? Tweet us @StreetcarLofts and share with us on Facebook.