By Andrea Tomkins –
The Kitchissippi streetscape just got a little bit brighter. A mural featuring a denim-clad figure holding a wrench in one hand and a bouquet of flowers in the other now adorns the massive west-facing wall of Iron North Studio and overlooks the parking lot of Dirienzo & Saikaley Automotive near the intersection of Spadina Avenue and Somerset Street West.
The mural was officially unveiled to a small crowd on May 31.
The creation of the mural enchanted many area residents as it was being painted. “My kids bugged me every day to come out and see the progress,” says Dennis Van Staalduinen, Executive Director of the Wellington West Business Improvement Area (WWBIA).
It’s an image with an impact that stands on its own, but if you’d like to delve deeper behind its meaning, artist Ryan Smeeton says the wrench is a nod to the area’s working-class roots and the bouquet is meant to symbolize its growth and change.
“I really like the fact that it’s a meeting between the historical blue-collar tradition of Hintonburg – a neighbourhood that really gets its hands dirty – and is not afraid to get in there and build, but also the newer spirit of artistic expression and all the rest of it,” observes Dennis. “The fact that both of those things still co-exist and neither one is blocking out the other one – they’re both really there – I love that part.”
By all accounts, this creative public art project happened fairly easily. Ryan identified the wall, came up with the design and talked to the property owner. “[The mural project] pretty much came to us fully formed,” says Dennis. “All we had to do was find some grant money and get him the right permissions.
“Actually, this was exceptionally easy so I can’t take any credit for this. It was all Ryan. We just did all of the technical stuff to make it happen.”
Dennis is also quick to give credit to the City of Ottawa Mural Program, who co-sponsored the project with the WWBIA. According to Ottawa.ca, the goal of the Ottawa Mural Program is support the City’s Graffiti Management Strategy and “beautify our city through the design, production and facilitation of murals.”
Outdoor murals have proven to be effective in managing graffiti, supporting arts and culture, contributing to economic development, and providing youth engagement opportunities.
In the coming weeks, residents will likely see Ryan climbing back up the ladder to put the final touches on the new mural. According to Ryan, there’s “five per cent” left to do, although to the layperson’s eye it might be hard to see what exactly that might be.
It’s shaping up to be a busy season for Ryan. He’s got a mural project on the go with St. Nicholas Adult High School and will be one of the visual artists participating at Glowfair, which is taking place on Bank Street June 14-16. He also has a project planned in Manotick this summer.
To see more of Ryan’s work, go to ryansmeeton.com.