West facing wall of Centennial Park Plaza (top of page) will be revitalized by the Port Union-Rouge Park mural this summer by a team including (inset, from left) Mural Routes Executive and Artistic Director Karin Eaton, CCRA communications chair Janice Bennink and mural artist Allan Bender.
By Janice Bennink
Look for an exciting addition to the Centennial streetscape this summer. Local arts organization Mural Routes, in partnership with CCRA, will be working with artist Allan Bender to design and paint the Port Union-Rouge Park mural on the west-facing wall of Centennial Park Plaza in July.
The Port Union-Rouge Park mural project was conceived to revitalize the often graffiti-tagged plaza wall that faces Port Union Community Centre with a meaningful visual story about our community heritage and significance to Scarborough. It will also reflect the natural environment of the Rouge River and mark this intersection as a gateway to the Rouge and waterfront.
A committee from CCRA, West Rouge Community Association and West Rouge Sports and Recreation Association will provide input and feedback for the artist's design. The final design will be approved by Councillor Ron Moeser and plaza owner Windward Developments, who have both offered full support of the project.
Mural painter Allan Bender brings considerable experience as lead artist on the project, having completed community murals in Toronto's Chinatown and Queen Street West, as well as across North America. He is also a sought-after artist for background murals at the Toronto Zoo. Allan will be joined by youth artist apprentices on the project – much needed help to complete the mural on a wall that stretches over 100 feet.
Allan looks forward to working in Centennial and knows how murals visually enhance the community, and can offer a sense of identity. He worked on the restoration of the Highland Creek Village cemetery mural, an example of street art that became a beloved landmark within its neighbourhood.
Enthusiastic about designing the Centennial mural, Allan says “There is such a rich historical heritage in the Port Union area for us to draw from for our narrative mural. We can go back as far as the late 1600s when the Iroquois first settled in the area, followed by the Mississauga First Nations and then European settlers. Port Union grew into a thriving hub of commerce, trade and transportation.”
Artist Allan Bender painting in the Rain Forest exhibit at Toronto Zoo.
The Port Union-Rouge Park mural has been recommended for funding by StreetARToronto (StART), a partnership program launched in 2012 as a central feature of the City of Toronto's Graffiti Management Plan. The mural will also support Mural Routes' training and mentorship programs, including a series of mural painting workshops at the Toronto Zoo in June targeted at emerging artists, and one student artist hired through the federal government's Canada Summer Jobs program.
Karin Eaton, Executive and Artistic Director of Mural Routes says she is “very pleased to be supporting this community initiative that will not only provide opportunities for youth training and community interaction, but will leave a legacy of a beautiful mural for everyone in the neighbourhood to enjoy for years to come.”
StART has recommended funding that covers a substantial portion of the mural, however additional fundraising for the project will be done within the local and business communities this summer. Donations over $10 to the project will receive a tax receipt from Mural Routes. With community support, the Port Union-Rouge Park mural will offer locals and visitors a glimpse of our past, present and future.
To learn more about the Port Union-Rouge Park mural, donate to the project and follow its progress over the summer, visit www.muralroutes.ca/port-union-mural/