As you journey into Yorkville this summer, you will notice a breath-taking new mural taking shape along Bellair Street. The mural, titled “Generally Speaking” by New York-based artist Nina Chanel Abney, and curated by Ashley McKenzie Barnes, is being included as a major installation for Yorkville Murals as part of ArtworxTO: Toronto’s Year of Public Art 2021-2022.
Alan Ganev is the founder of Yorkville Murals and director of Taglialatella Gallery. He says that the intention of Ashley was to curate a piece that brings the community together as the world grapples with increased racial tension and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. “We wanted a project that was community-based, that brings culture to the neighbourhood,” he says. “We are creating an experience that we can market and put out there to create opportunities for artists.”
The event, which runs from September 24 to 26, features art installations, speaker panels and movie screenings. The goal is to make Yorkville a landmark in Toronto for public art. “We are not only interested in the art component, but how we work with the city and with brands,” he says.” Yorkville Murals has been finding new and innovative ways to add art to the urban landscape. Art lovers are already familiar with Yorkville Mural attractions such as the 26,000-square-foot mural on top of the Cumberland parking lot. Other murals can be found in the courtyard of Sofia, on the wall at Sassafraz and on electrical boxes and signs around the Yorkville Village.
Ganev says he is excited to partner on a project that evokes thought and discussion in the community. “A lot of previous projects beautified the area, but there was no message. It was neutral and pleasing to see. In this regard, Ashley pushed us to produce a mural that inspires and has a message,” he says, adding the goal of this year’s installation was to push the boundaries of what art can do for the neighbourhood.
The curator choose the artist Nina Chanel Abney is known for pushing boundaries and dealing with a variety of social and political views by pushing for social reform. The common theme throughout the street mural is “Love, Stop, Don’t Kill” in response to violence against the Black community. “Ashley loves how this piece makes you think twice and think about what’s in front of you,” says Ganev. “She explained to me how the intention goes beyond the ethnicity of the artist. When you see what’s in the news, you see the issues are not resolved and more work has to be done. Conversations have to happen.”
Ganev says the aspect of education is key to the pieces that are a part of Yorkville Murals. He says as the event continues to grow, a higher calibre of artists are making a significant contribution to the artistic dialogue within the community. “The transformation has been remarkable—it’s remarkable how it inspires people and all the work going into it is paving a road for the next person.”
The mural will remain on Bellair Street until November 1, at which time it will be removed and preparations for next year’s installations will begin. “They have a lifespan like a flower,” he says, adding the global impact of Yorkville Murals will have a significant impact as the community reopens post COVID-19. “People internationally are seeing this and will come to Yorkville. We want to add projects every year and become a mecca for public art.
To learn more about Yorkville Murals visit www.yorkvillemurals.com.