Over 2021, the Riverside Business Improvement Area (BIA) collaborated with Toronto-based arts organizations East End Arts, Women Paint, and Native Women in the Arts and local artists to envision public art murals in the laneway cooridor spanning three city blocks – located north of Queen Street East, south of Thompson Street, east of Carroll Street and west of Grant Street. The project was realized over summer 2021 and launched with a community celebration on September 25th, 2021.
A partnership between East End Arts, Women Paint, Native Women in the Arts, and the Riverside BIA, ‘Women Paint Riverside’ was an exciting opportunity to beautify and enhance the Riverside neighbourhood with a series of interconnected murals, exploring the relationship between the vibrant urban Riverside community and the Don River from which it takes its name. The project builds upon the area’s existing public art legacy, and features the work of 20+ street artists, as well as supporting participants from Girls Mural Camp 2021 to put what they learned at camp this summer to the test as apprentice mural artists.
Working with co-curatorial consultants Bareket Kezwer and Ariel Smith, Women Paint Riverside brought diverse women and gender marginalized* street artists, muralists and graffiti writers together to create new work, bring attention to the importance of the Don River within an urban setting, and share their diverse stories in public spaces—a place these voices are often underrepresented.
Women Paint Riverside took place on the treaty lands and territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, which is also the traditional territories of the Huron-Wendat, the Haudenosaunee confederacy and the Anishinaabe. This territory is subject to the dish with one spoon treaty, a covenant between the Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee to share and care for the land and resources in the lower Great Lakes area.
In many Indigenous nations across Turtle Island, women and Two Spirit people have long carried sacred responsibilities to protect the water, and are strong leaders in the growing movement for water sovereignty around the great lakes. Given the close relationship of the Riverside community to the Don River and Lake Ontario, the murals for this exciting laneway transformation explore the element of water.
Laneways and alleys have historically been areas that do not always feel safe for women and other gender marginalized people, and can be associated with the threat of violence. Projects like Women Paint and Girls Mural Camp take up space in the public sphere and help facilitate discussions about important issues that affect our overlapping communities such as misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, white supremacy, colonization and gentrification.
Explore the completed murals below and learn more about the project and artists via
About the Riverside Laneway Art Project: Women Paint Riverside
As part of the Riverside BIA’s Streetscape Master Plan published in 2019, the laneway north of Queen Street East between Carroll Street and Broadview was the first core area identified for a quick start implementation as a Laneway Art Program in partnership with local property owners. The privately-owned buildings, garages, garbage receptacles, and walls along this laneway were frequent targets for tagging/vandalism.
This City-owned laneway is the backing for many popular local businesses and has high visibility from the nearby Thompson Street Dog Park, The Broadview Hotel, Eastbound Brewing Co, Thompson Parkette, Broadview/Queen E TTC Stop, the Legion, Boulton Daycare, nearby residences, and Broadview Avenue as a core corridor in Riverside. The laneway is also a frequent and important passage for delivery vehicles and people on their way around the neighbourhood. Experience had demonstrated that mural art is an effective means of deterring tagging, vandalism, improving safety, and improving community space for local residents and businesses.
As part of pandemic economic recovery, local businesses also became increasingly interested in looking at this valuable outdoor space for additional dining and retail opportunities. Making the area a more attractive space is important to the area.
The first mural in this laneway was implemented in 2017 as part of Canada and Ontario 150 initiatives and the ‘Tkaranto Past, Tkaranto Future‘ Mural was created by Indigenous artists Odinamaad, Cheif Lady Bird and Dave Monday Ogurie. Then, in 2020, the second mural as part of the East End Arts Girls Mural Camp in Riverside, led by experienced Toronto artists Bareket Kezwer and Monica Wickeler and supported by local property owners, the Riverside BIA, East End Arts and funding from City of Toronto, and provincial and federal level funders.
This project is made possible by supported from StreetArt Toronto, City of Toronto BIA office, Hullmark, and Streetcar Developments.