By Ted Simpson
Artist Claudia Salguero has been keeping hope alive during the pandemic one painting at a time and spreading her message of transformation and resilience throughout the schools and communities of Ottawa.
Salguero is a multidisciplinary, Columbian-born Canadian artist who is well-known for her large murals and community engagement. She was recently honoured by the Ottawa Arts Council, receiving the Peter Honeywell Mid-Career Artist Award back in April. The award recognizes and encourages the achievements of Ottawa artists of all disciplines who have evolved beyond the emerging stage in their career to become recognized professional working artists contributing to the community.
Salguero has been keeping engaged with the community through her work with the Multicultural Arts for Schools and Communities (MASC) organization, located in the Fisher Park Community Centre on Holland Avenue. Through MASC, Salguero runs her “Together Apart” mural program, where she is able to collaborate with virtual classrooms of students on new works of art that will hang in the hallways of their schools, once everything is allowed to reopen.
“Being an immigrant myself, I know how difficult it is to fit in and to feel that you belong,” said Salguero. “And I’m also a mother: I know that kids and teenagers often struggle with those same feelings, so through the arts we can discover ourselves and become engaged with others who share our similar interests.”
You may remember seeing Salguero’s painting on the art wall in Parkdale Park last summer. Or you may have even seen her work along Rideau Street in Lowertown – the eight-storey mural is nearly impossible to miss as you cross the Cummings Bridge in and out of Vanier. But those are only two of over 35 mural projects that Salguero has created across the city.
The common thread across most of her work is the recurring image of the butterfly. This motif has been constant in Salguero’s paintings for years, but the image of the butterfly can take on a much deeper meaning in these pandemic times.
“The whole concept to me of butterflies [is] a symbol of transformation and resilience and they have a spiritualism, a connection to the creator, or whatever you might call the higher power that gives life to us,” said Salguero. “To me, the butterfly is a symbol of hope.”
Right now, Salguero is hard at work on another giant mural installation. This one is called “The Wisdom Mural,” and the six-storey painting will be installed on the side of a highrise near Billings Bridge. In her mind, this is just the first instalment of a triptych that Salguero intends to spread out across the city of Ottawa. And she’s eyeing a very prominent intersection here along Wellington Street West as the sight for part two in her vision. Nothing is confirmed at this time, but if you like the idea of a giant, public art installation coming to Hintonburg and you want to support her cause, Salguero is running a GoFundMe campaign right now to help make this project happen. To learn more, visit her website at claudiasalguero.com