A new mural in Centretown!
January 14, 2022Laura PenneyComments 1
If you have walked down Lisgar Street recently, you may have seen a first for CCOC—a new mural! The stunning artwork is by Peatr Thomas, a multidisciplinary Ininew and Anishinaabe artist from the Pimicikamak and Miskooseepi territories.
The meaning behind the mural
The mural represents a moment of connection between two slightly different (coloured) beings. In Peatr’s culture, eagles are sacred for many reasons and teachings. Eagles represent love in the Sacred 7 Grandfather Teachings.
In the mural, the eagles are finding connection, which is represented by their own colours being reflected in the other. The hollow centre represents purity and transparency. The vibrant yellow and orange colours represent a flame. In Peatr’s culture, teachings also explain that our hearts are essentially fires. Tending to these fires takes attention and care and is no easy task. Peatr skillfully pulled all of this meaning together in the mural: the heart represents a fire and love, and love is represented by the eagles.
How did this mural come to be?
It started with an idea
The spark for this project began when Lisa Hollingshead, a CCOC tenant and committee member, contacted the Tenant and Community Engagement (TCE) Department about a beautiful public art opportunity with House of PainT. House of PainT is an Ottawa-based, grassroots festival that showcases hip-hop artists. They also highlight traditionally Black and LatinX urban art forms such as graffiti. House of PainT was looking to collaborate with property owners interested in installing murals. As an organization rooted in Centretown and the urban environment, collaborating with House of PainT was an exciting idea that would further CCOC’s Mission and Values.
The application deadline was fast approaching and we had some snap decisions to make. So, after a flurry of emails between departments, we settled on 455 Lisgar as the mural location because of its large, untreated concrete wall. It was perfect: high visibility, and easy access for painting. We submitted a hurried application and anxiously waited to hear back.
Involving tenants along the way
When House of PainT announced CCOC had been selected for a mural, we were delighted and got straight to work! We shared the news with the tenants at 455 Lisgar as we waited for House of PainT to pair us with an artist. The response from tenants was overwhelmingly positive! Survey results showed that tenants wanted to see CCOC’s values of diversity and collaboration represented. Tenants also suggested celebrating the elements of nature and Indigenous heritage.
Before long, we were paired with a graffiti artist. We relayed the tenant ideas to the artist and started working on a permit application. However, things started to get more complicated than we had anticipated. Unfortunately, the artist we were paired with was unable to proceed with the project. In addition, the City could not process our permit application until we had a mural design. And we could not finalize agreements to rent equipment or secure the neighbouring parking lot without a design or a timeline. For a moment, it seemed we had bit off more than we could chew. We jumped into a project without fully knowing how all the details would work out. But we knew the idea was a good one, so we didn’t give up.
The artist’s vision
After much anticipation, we got news from House of PainT. They had paired us with a new artist: Peatr Thomas, an Inninew and Anishnaabe artist. After looking through his portfolio, it was clear right away that we were in good hands. We shared the tenants’ ideas with Peatr and he promptly provided us with a mural design. The design was the breathtaking eagle artwork that now graces the wall of 455 Lisgar. Peatr was inspired by a photo he took in his homelands of a spotted eagle taking flight from a treetop.
Peatr’s design was the last remaining piece for our permit application with the City. While we were waiting for approval, House of PainT flew Peatr to Ottawa. We all held our breath that the permit and a parking lot agreement would be ready when he arrived. It was a success! Our neighbours at St. Patrick’s Adult School were so gracious. They generously granted us parking lot access and were a huge help once painting started. After a few last minute purchases for paint and safety supplies, Peatr started painting.
A finished mural
Approximately 30 hours of painting later, we had a masterpiece! Peatr’s mural immediately brightened up Centretown and now brings joy to the neighbourhood every day. So many people, CCOC tenants and otherwise, have shared their delight about this new mural in our community. We hope everyone who sees Peatr’s mural will appreciate the art, and everything it signifies, for many years to come.
A big community thank you!
We learned important lessons throughout this process for future projects: how to improve communication, to trust the process, and where to get a 60-foot boom lift on short notice!
To think that this project began with just one person, one idea, is an inspiring thing. We deeply believe that you and your ideas can transform your community! If you have ideas about community initiatives where you live, please get in touch. We can’t wait to hear from you!
Thank you to Peatr Thomas, House of PainT, Lisa Hollingshead, St. Patrick’s Adult School, and all the COCC staff involved in making this mural a reality. Thank you as well to the Community Housing Transformation Centre and the Ottawa Community Foundation for the financial support. Thank you all for joining in this moment of connection.