By Vanessa Gomez
Fearing crime and drug use would increase inside their community, residents of Birmingham and Eighth Street at first did not encourage the new skate park project inside their neighbourhood. But now, two years later, the park has turned into a communal space with art in its walls bringing colour to the community.
In 2016 Toronto Police Service 22 Division identified the skate park at Birmingham as a place they wanted to revitalize. After one year of talks with the community, Lakeshore Arts started the project.
“We had identified three main areas that we wanted to see cover, and we had an approximate total square footage of those areas,” says Adrienne Costantino Community Programs Coordinator at Lakeshore arts, describing the first step of the project.
Costantino says the second part was sending a call for artists and grading their submissions. Afterwards, they picked the artists who would be in charge of the murals.
Fathima Mohiuddin, one of the chosen artists for the project, thinks that when the community understands the importance of art and creating opportunities for artists, it is something positive. Mohiuddin says she enjoyed participating on the project.
“There’s this awesome energy of people congregating in one place with a passion for something that makes them feel free and excited, and they’re diverse, and represent something great about the world. I think it was the place, what it represented and who it attracted,” says Mohiuddin.
Anya Mielniczek, the artist responsible for painting a portrait mural on the skate park, believes the initiative connected with the community and helped transform the space.
“Ultimately people make a connection to that, is something vibrant, something fun to look at as opposed to just a concrete gray wall. People can get a lot of different things from the pieces, it gives away more than a blank space would,” says Mielniczek.
Mielniczek hopes she will participate again on more mural projects around the neighborhood.
Costantino says more communities around Toronto should be developing more projects like this one. She knows the skateboarding committee wants to do more murals in other parks in East York.
Lakeshore Arts will continue doing more projects like this around the community, but that doesn’t mean they are ready to leave the skate park.
“We will continue to activate different murals in that space depending on our budget, what the murals that are currently up look like after a year,” says Costantino.