Finding the meaning of community through art

Azadeh Pirazimian

Azadeh Pirazimian

The Port Union-Rouge Park mural artist team spent the summer of 2016 face to face with Centennial Plaza’s back wall, paintbrushes in hand. Outdoor mural painting is not a job for the frail, and the artists spent July and August working through hot, dry days and nights.

But art is transformation, and sometimes artists themselves are changed. Azadeh Pirazimian, one of the artists on the Port Union mural team, feels that her summer experience was life changing.

Seventeen months ago, Azadeh came to Canada from Iran, where she had trained as an artist since high school. She received her bachelor’s degree in painting from Shahid Bahonar University of Kerman and her master’s in visual communication from the Faculty of Art and Architecture at Azad University in Tehran. Before emigrating, Azadeh was teaching at Azad University and at the University of Applied Sciences.

After arriving in Canada without work, Azadeh volunteered as an assistant in a community arts program, then enrolled in the Mural Arts Career Development program offered by Mural Routes. Hoping to connect with other artists, she volunteered with artist Allan Bender on a mural project at Toronto Zoo, and was hired by Mural Routes to work with Blinc Studios on the Port Union-Rouge Park project.

When Azadeh first saw the plaza wall, she wondered how the team was going to complete something so massive. “I was really surprised,” she recalled. “When we started to prime the wall it took around 10 days. I said ‘how are we going to manage this big wall?’ I was used to working on canvases, maybe maximum two metres.”

As the mural progressed, Azadeh realized that her fears were unfounded. She learned that mural artists work under varying conditions as a team and make the best of what they are given.

She also learned something she felt was needed. “I knew the definition of the word ‘community,’ but this summer taught me what it really means. This was something unique for me,” she says. “Here I learned how people work beside each other, like a chain. If one person did not help, something would happen.”

“This summer was amazing because I was working beside community people – artists, shop owners, neighbours. Everyone helped. Now I can say that we did it – a big project this summer here in this beautiful community.”

Another accomplishment for Azadeh – she received her first Canadian paycheques this summer working as a mural artist in Centennial. She considers it a historic moment in her life and “a gift from Canada.”