News / Toronto

Toronto artists painting love letters to the Great Lakes

Project aims to highlight water risks by showing beauty

Jason Botkin alongside one of several murals painted by he and his team at the mouth of Don River.

Liz Beddall/Metro / Metro Order this photo

Jason Botkin alongside one of several murals painted by he and his team at the mouth of Don River.

Amid all the hustle and bustle, it can be easy to forget that Toronto is on the shores of one of the biggest fresh water lakes in the world.

That’s something a group of local and international artists is hoping to change with the inaugural Love Letter to the Great Lakes street art festival. Twenty murals celebrating the Great Lakes are going up at this week at three sites with canvases ranging from back alleys to pillars of Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway ramps. 

Organizer Jacquelyn West hopes the art will connect with ordinary people.

“Instead of looking at what are the things that we need to be scared about, it’s more so, how do we in our own way write a love letter to the Great Lakes,” she said. “It’s not a renewable resource, and we’ve treated it that way for a long time.”

The street art was made possible with money from the PangeaSeed Foundation, which has done “sea wall” murals celebrating oceans in oceanside communities in Mexico, Grenada and New Zealand. The Toronto project is their first effort focused on fresh water.

Artistic director and mural artist Jason Botkin said oceans and the Great Lakes face many of the same issues, such as pollution and invasive species.

“There’s a gigantic island of plastic floating in Superior,” he said, calling the murals “artivism.”

Cleaning up the lakes “really depends on people in the community changing or swaying the tides of public opinion,” he said.

That allows for lobbying politicians and corporations to adopt policies that “really change the way that live around the lakes,” he added.

More on Metronews.ca