The City of Toronto’s StreetARToronto program invests in street art projects across the city, which aims to beautify public space and attribute the local culture and heritage of its host community. The program is rooted in a transformation that celebrates graffiti artwork, murals and stencil graffiti through diverse expressions, which contrast the harmful effects of vandalism. As part of StreetARToronto, the Underpass program START UP has transformed one of Toronto’s oldest communities, Corktown, and its King East pillars beneath the Richmond St E. and Adelaide St. E. overpasses.
The murals have survived their first cold winter and have stood out as a remarkable, vibrant addition to the once derelict underpass. Artists Shalak Attack, Bruno Smoky and Fiya Bruxa of Essencia Collective drew inspiration from Corktown’s past, its stories overlapping one another and serving as a glimpse into its historic evolution.
The portraits are captivating, and characterize the various journeys people of Corktown have taken; from an immigrant’s voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, to the test of time as a retired bricklayer who has dedicated their life to working in a factory.
The role of these pillars has now shifted from a one-dimensional infrastructure piece to a tribute that stands tall and sustains local history. It serves as a reminder to its observers of the deep connection we share with our past, and the legacy we all share as a community.
Images by Michi McCloskey
Michi McCloskey is an aspiring urban planner with an interest in community design and urban renewal/redevelopment projects. She graduated from Ryerson University with a Bachelor of Urban and Regional Planning before attending the post-graduate Interdisciplinary Design Strategies program at the Institute without Boundaries. Michi grew up near Mansfield, Ontario, and is drawn to rural environments and the promotion of physical activity and exploration of the natural environment.