By Jacob Hoytema –
Several prominent Hintonburg community members were present for the recent unveiling of a new wall mural on the corner of Lowrey and Garland Street. The piece was designed and painted by acclaimed street artist, Arpi, a Montreal native who now lives in Hintonburg, not far from his newest work.
Arpi was on hand at the unveiling, explaining the meaning behind the imagery of the piece as well as letting neighbourhood residents contribute to the artwork. Arpi had left some blank areas around the mural’s edges, and invited those at the unveiling ceremony to use stencils to fill in a pattern that he had already begun.
The completed mural depicts a collage nature and suburban life. Various types of birds and fauna take up the centre of the mural and are flanked on either side by two images street lamps, one shown at dawn and the other at dusk.
Arpi says he wanted the mural to have its roots in the Hintonburg community. All the birds and flowers are native to the area, and flowers are native to the area, and the two street lamps depicted are both ones that Arpi encountered while walking around the neighbourhood.
Neel Bhatt and Roger Senecal of Content Home commissioned the mural. They felt that the blank concrete wall across from their new development on Garland Street could be improved with some colourful artwork.
“This is really placemaking,” says Roger of the new piece. “This area’s been treated like the backside of Hintonburg for years, and it really isn’t.”
Neel also points out that because of light rail construction north of the neighbourhood, many buses are being detoured through nearby Scott Street. The new mural will be visible to commuters.
“Because of the buses on Scott Street, we felt this corner was being frayed and being taken for granted, so we wanted to bring a bit of an anchor to the neighbourhood as well,” says Neel.
Though their initial idea to install a mural was met with support from the Hintonburg Community Association, there were a lot of bureaucratic hurdles to be cleared before the project could become a reality.
They contacted Kitchissippi Councillor Jeff Leiper during the summer to see if their idea was feasible. Fiona Mitchell, the Councillor’s assistant, found that not only was the wall in a zoning that wouldn’t allow any “permanent signage” — the property was split almost down the middle, meaning that the planning committee would need to approve two separate zoning changes.
“Luckily there was no debate, all the other councillors were very much in support of the project,” says Fiona.
Because of this long approval process, Arpi’s work on the mural began when the weather had already begun to turn cold.
Arpi says that painting on the concrete brought unique challenges such as having to go around cracks in the wall or stains left from old graffiti that had been scrubbed. He adapted to this by using the shapes of objects in the mural to hide the blemishes.
“You can’t ignore the surface you’re painting on,” he says.