Local artists work to beautify L’Amoreaux neighbourhood through public art program

The Green Line checked out the VIEWS mural program in L'Amoreaux to learn how it's helping local youth bring public art to Scarborough.

By Amanda Seraphina, Julia Lawrence, and Anita Li of The Green Line

Public art downtown is plentiful, but not all local artists have the same access to the resources everywhere in the city, including the Scarborough neighbourhood of L’Amoreaux. One organization, Next Generation Arts, is looking to fill that gap with its popular mural painting program.

VIEWS — or Vision of Inspiring and Empowering Walls in Scarborough — is a free mural painting program hosted weekly at the L’Amoreaux Community Recreation Centre near Kennedy Road and McNicoll Avenue.

Local artists from ages 15 to 29 create murals representative of the area to beautify L’Amoreaux  and to increase the amount of public art on display in Scarborough’s north end.

Aswani Siwakoti, a participant in the VIEWS program, stands in front of the mural wall. (Julia Lawrence/The Green Line)

“When it comes to the arts, it’s very centred in downtown Toronto, and it takes a long time to get there. So it’s very inaccessible for people especially if it’s after school or after work,” said Aswani Siwakoti, a VIEWS participant. “There’s a lot of people who don’t even entertain the idea of pursuing the arts because they feel like there’s no stability in it, [or they] can’t make a stable income.”

Map of public art installations spread across Toronto as per City of Toronto data, 2022. (Paul Zwambag/CityNews)

Toronto has over 400 public art installations across the city, but most are downtown. Recent data from the City of Toronto shows wards like Spadina-Fort York have 157 public art pieces while suburban wards like Scarborough-Agincourt just have one.

Photo caption: Bar graph on the spread of public art in the city by wards, as per City of Toronto data, 2022. (Paul Zwambag/CityNews)

Next Generation Arts, a charity that empowers young artists in the GTA, launched Views in 2022. Selina Tran helped bring it to L’Amoureaux this year. She said VIEWS provides local residents with much-needed skills training, resources and peer support.

Selina Tran, youth leader at the L’Amoreaux Community Recreation Centre, stands outside the Centre. (Julia Lawrence/The Green Line)

“Interacting with a lot of youth recently, I’ve noticed that they’re really into creativity and arts, but they don’t really have the space or resources to explore that beyond a hobby,” said Tran, a youth leader at the L’Amoreaux Community Recreation Centre.

“A lot of people really want to take arts as a professional or go on to really have professional schooling in arts, but they don’t have the resources to do that. And I think especially with L’Amoreaux, we’re really underfunded in arts, which is why the grants and everything that went into this is super important.”

Cai Bell-Jerome, youth facilitator for Next Generation Arts, stands in front of the mural in progress. (Julia Lawrence/The Green Line)

Cai Bell-Jerome helped paint last year’s mural at the O’Connor Community Centre in Clairlea, another Scarborough neighbourhood. Bell-Jerome’s experience helped them build a professional portfolio, and also get a job as projects administrator and youth facilitator for Next Generation Arts.

“O’Connor Community Center VIEWS gave me a lot of confidence to sort of pursue it as more of a job, and it made it look more, I think, attainable for me because I had that start. So I was able to go out and use those skills for my own craft,” said Bell-Jerome. 

“I think it also puts you in touch with a lot of other people who want to do the same thing as you, and in that, you can form collectives, you can start projects together and it can just give you that starting point.”

Teagan McCanny, projects administrator at Next Generation Arts, sits inside the community centre’s youth hub. (Julia Lawrence/The Green Line)

This year, VIEWS is taking place out of the L’Amoreaux Community Recreation Centre where local youth are reclaiming the space.

“We saw some community violence and we saw a space where arts could overlap with mental health, and programming could be provided to youth. With VIEWS, we accept anyone across the city of Toronto — they don’t have to be from Scarborough,” said Teagan McCanny, projects administrator for Next Generation Arts.

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