Creating a legacy mural for the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood

By Sharon McMillan –

As a local arts organization, Jamii often celebrates community life in our neighbourhood, which is our goal. We were pleased when the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood Association welcomed our invitation to co-produce a legacy mural to celebrate Indigenous culture and honour the association’s 40th anniversary and local residents.

That encounter of organizations resulted in a stunning mural by Indigenous artist Darwin Peters on the exterior wall of the St. Lawrence Community Recreation Centre. It was unveiled on June 21 during Jamii’s fifth annual Indigenous Peoples Day celebration.

Darwin Peters is an artist from Pikangikum First Nation in northern Ontario. In the last five years, Jamii has visited Pikangikum endeavouring to forge a lasting relationship with the people of this community.

St. Lawrence residents warmly welcomed Darwin as our guest for the week leading up to the unveiling and celebration. Each day people walking along The Esplanade marvelled as this engaging mural was created.

In 2014 the iconic basketball court mural was completed near The Esplanade – a familiar image featured in movies, music videos and numerous publications. A year later, Jamii hosted a community consultation to discuss a new mural. Realizing that dream took eight years, but this newest mural, named Mashkiki, truly reflects this en- tire vibrant community.

Some of the mural’s imagery and overall focus was informed by community input, especially by Market Lane Public School students, who offered the two main elements Darwin brought to life: the tree with roots to keep us grounded, and the canoe.

Mashkiki means medicine in Ojibway. The question arises: what do we need to heal? What contributes to our healing process and our well-being?

During the community consultation, responses to these questions indicated that real healing requires family, friends and community. Imagery illustrating that along with butter- flies (for transformation) and leaves (new beginnings) figure prominently in the mural.

Look closer, and you’ll see Mother Earth breathing life into the water world – the bubble of life. Along the bottom is written “The Esplanade” and beside it Pikangikum written in Ojibway. Supporting Darwin in painting this massive mural were several people, especially Jamii founder and project curator Isorine Marc, supporting artists Andrew Patterson and Kseniya Tsoy, and assistants Zenzi Harris and Karen Lam.

We are grateful that Emblem Development and the St. Lawrence Market BIA sponsored this project and for the dedication of all involved. We now have a legacy landmark to in- spire and encourage generations of residents and visitors. Come visit the mural at 230 The Esplanade!