By Andrea Tomkins –
It was almost certainly the hottest day of the summer when KT visited local artist, Tara Tosh Kennedy, and her son Finn at the corner of Richmond Road and McRae Avenue. They were just starting a new mural, commissioned by the Westboro Business Improvement Area (BIA).
Many residents will already be familiar with Tara’s work, which includes a sizable mural painted in and around the underpass leading to Westboro Beach as well as a mural at Dovercourt Recreation Centre. In fact, it was Dovercourt Recreation Association’s Executive Director, John Rapp, who connected Tara with Michelle Groulx of the Westboro BIA.
The idea, as it was presented to Tara, was to liven up a grey landscape. Perhaps more than any intersection in the ward, this one is particularly monochromatic.
“The buildings are concrete, and then there’s the roads and sidewalks obviously,” remarks Tara. “There’s not a lot of green on this corner.”
Most residents have probably driven, biked, or walked through this intersection without noticing the low wall between the sidewalk and the hydro towers. The wall is about four metres long and is just under a metre high. Until now, it’s been easy to miss.
Tara’s idea was a simple one: to use this space for an homage to John Ceprano’s famous rock sculptures at Remic Rapids and, as she describes, “to bring a little more of the beauty from the river up into this corner.”
John, who’s been building these sculptures for over 30 years, has created one of the area’s best known and beloved scenes.
“It’s so recognizable; it’s iconic,” says Tara. She had only put in a few hours of work before passers-by began stopping. “‘I know where that is,’ they’d say. ‘I know that spot it’s so lovely.’”
The shapes and the colours are reminiscent of Tara’s work at Westboro Beach.
She encourages pedestrians and cyclists – or anyone waiting at the nearby bus stop – to pause and have a closer look. Look for the rock figures Tara refers to as the “couple” and the “parent.” She points to the parent and its child. “I like this one because to me, there’s something about love or community that you can see in that,” says Tara.
If you’ve seen the real sculptures in person, might also recognize the silhouette of buildings across the river in Tara’s interpretation.
“And then, of course, geese, because there are always geese there, love ’em or hate ’em you gotta have the geese,” laughs Tara.
For this project, Tara was assisted by her 12-year-old son, Finn Kennedy, who also helped paint the mural at Westboro Beach.
He liked Tara’s initial sketches of the sculptures and was already familiar with them.
“I’ve been down at the beach where this is – several times – and every time I go there I don’t want to leave,” says Finn. “The statues are incredible and I feel like this [mural] really captures the magnificence of the whole area there.”
“Even just biking past it… it just makes you feel something that not a lot of things can really get you to feel.”
Finn, who is starting seventh grade at Broadview P.S., wants to be an artist when he grows up and has spent much of the summer brushing up on his art skills. “I feel like this is even better practice because it’s a style I haven’t done very often before,” he says.
Tara secretly hopes this new mural will become a wayfinding landmark for Kitchissippi residents. Someday she’d like to overhear someone arranging to meet “at the bus stop by the mural.” It’s really just a matter of time before that happens. The mural is expected to last about five years before the elements wear it down to grey again.
“I’ll touch it up as needed,” she says.