Community mural in Rexdale reflects community’s history and hopes
|Report an Error|
Share via Email
For 16-year-old Kafaye Clarke, the plane pictured taking off on a new community mural in Rexdale is more than a reflection of the nearby airport. It’s a symbol of a neighbourhood in transition.
“There’s a lot of positive stuff happening in this part of town. In this community and in Rexdale as a whole,” Clarke said. “This neighbourhood’s going to keep on progressing and it’s going to keep on getting better. It’s going up from here.”
Clarke was one of 20 young painters, led by local artist Emilia Jajus, who worked for five weeks this summer on the 115-metre-long mural unveiled Monday morning at the so-called “gateway to Rexdale” by Toronto’s Arts for Children and Youth agency. It’s on view near an underpass on Kipling Ave. at Belfield Rd.
All participants were from one of Toronto’s priority neighbourhoods, or a marginalized community, as part of that non-profit organization’s mandate, said executive director Julie Frost.
Doug Ford, councillor for Ward 2, approached Frost last year about doing the mural, telling her “this area needs some rethinking,” she said. “We worked with the City of Toronto to get that happening.
The mural, which follows a historical theme, pays homage to the First Nations original inhabitants and developer Rex Hislop, who was instrumental in developing the area. It also features the GO train that runs through the area, as well as racehorses — Woodbine racetrack is three kilometres away — and variously coloured feathers to represent Rexdale’s ethnic diversity.
Ford said it “beautifies” the neighbourhood, which is mainly industrial, with four-lane roads and dozens of trucks rumbling by, and if often noted for drug and gang activity.
“If you notice, there (aren’t) too many murals in Rexdale,” Ford said, pointing out that the concrete wall opposite the mural on the west side of Kipling — still covered in rust stains dripping from the chain link fence above — is slated to be painted next summer by the same agency.
Before the mural went up, the eastern wall was “particularly nasty,” he said.
Fixing it up gives young people with artistic skills the opportunity to “have a summer to make some money and give back to their community,” he said.
He added the program had the endorsement of his brother, Mayor Rob Ford, who previously represented the ward, and that it was Rob’s idea. “He couldn’t stand all the rust and said, ‘Do something with the fence,’” Ford said.
The city contributed $30,000 to the $75,000 project through its StreetArt program, which aims to manage graffiti in the city. Sponsorships from local businesses made up the rest of the funding.
The mayor’s spokesman, Amin Massoudi, had said via Twitter that the mayor would attend the 10 a.m. unveiling, but he was nowhere in sight. Doug Ford said he wasn’t sure of his brother’s whereabouts and hadn’t heard from him.