A new mural has added a splash of colour to the Lower Don River Trail. Formerly a plain concrete pedestrian and cycling tunnel, StreetARToronto (StART) has transformed the Bala Underpass with an eye-catching mural evoking the Aboriginal history of the West Don Lands. Constructed in 2007, the Bala Underpass provides connections to Corktown Common and the surrounding trail system. Previously an industrial wasteland, Corktown Common now serves as an important flood protection landform and park. It recently reopened following a brief closure that was in place during the Pan Am Games. 

The newly unveiled mural, image by Marcus MitanisThe newly unveiled mural, image by Marcus Mitanis

Artist Rolande Souliere was on hand to explain her vision behind the piece. The use of colours—red, yellow, black and white—symbolizes the four sacred directions of the Aboriginal Medicine Wheel. Diagonal strips running across the tunnel evoke the movements that the First Nations took on the numerous footpaths and trails of the Don Valley, which was a significant hunting and fishing land for 12,000 years. The vivid artwork also references the urban navigational symbols of barricades, boundaries and roadways for a more modern touch to the piece. 

The ribbon is cut, image by Marcus MitanisThe ribbon is cut, image by Marcus Mitanis

"It transforms this very plain space into a striking gateway to a pretty magnificent part of our city," said Councillor and Deputy Mayor Pam McConnell. "The depth of thought that has been put into this project will not only make it a great walkway but something for everybody to pause and reflect." Following an interpretive dance in the midst of the tunnel, McConnell was joined by Souliere and StART Project Manager Lilie Zendel in cutting the ceremonial ribbon. 

Guests are treated to a breakdancing performance, image by Marcus MitanisGuests are treated to a breakdancing performance in the tunnel, image by Marcus Mitanis

StART selected Souliere following a competition which sought an Aboriginal-inspired artistic concept. Created in 2012, StART is a public realm initiative undertaken by the City to develop and increase awareness about street art's ability to revitalize the cityscape of Toronto. StART's Underpass Program exists to beautify roadway underpasses, an identifiable and abundant feature of urban life in Corktown and the West Don Lands. A short walk from the Bala Underpass, a group of murals was unveiled this summer at Underpass Park to broad acclaim. 

New signage marking the Pan Am Path, image by Marcus MitanisNew signage marking the Pan Am Path, image by Marcus Mitanis

The Lower Don River Trail forms part of the 80-kilometre Pan Am Path, which builds upon Toronto's existing trail network and was completed as a legacy project marking the 2015 Games. Two Heritage Toronto plaques were installed last year commemorating the Lower Don River railway crossing and the straightening of the Don. 

The Pan Am Path and Don River plaques, image by Marcus MitanisThe Pan Am Path and Don River plaques, image by Marcus Mitanis

The West Don Lands have undergone a significant reinvention from a dreary industrial space to what will next year become a vibrant residential and retail district, and the area is illustrative of the transformational work being done across our waterfront to bring it into the 21st Century. 

Corktown Common and the Canary District, image by Marcus MitanisCorktown Common and the Canary District, image by Marcus Mitanis

For more information on the various projects in the West Don Lands, check out the dataBase files linked below. Want to get involved in the discussion? Visit the associated Forum threads or leave a comment in the field provided at the bottom of this page.