On Monday, July 13th, UrbanToronto joined representatives from the City of Toronto in celebrating—and officially unveiling—the collection of murals that now grace roadside pillars in Underpass Park. Artists, onlookers, and members of the organizations that made the installations possible, joined together in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to welcome a newly enlivened space, completing the urban reclamation project that began with the initial opening of Underpass Park in 2012.
The new public art was made possible by a group of organizations—including StreetARToronto, Mural Routes, the Corktown Residents and Business Association, and Friends of the Pan Am Path—who brought together local artists and municipal authorities to facilitate the creation of the new murals.
Headed by artists Labrona and Troy Lovegates, the 23 pillars were painted by a coalition of over 20 artists, who brought together a diverse patchwork of styles and aesthetics to the park, showcasing the diversity of art in the city.
Located beneath the the Adelaide Street/Richmond Street/Eastern Avenue overpasses, Underpass Park has transformed an overlooked and unused space into a vibrant community hub with basketball courts, playgrounds, and a large skate park. Once merely a place to drive over (if you were lucky) or walk under (if you were less lucky), the park has become the sort of rejuvenated urban space where those hierarchies are usurped.
The drivers above, who likely don't know what they are passing, are now the unlucky ones. The murals, in both their diversity and their individual power, stand as testaments to the vibrancy and social power of urban spaces, which an increasing number of Torontonians are learning to celebrate.
Speaking to Labrona, the artist who painted the first row of pillars beside the road (above), we learned that Greek art and architecture inspired the content of his artwork in Underpass Park. Playing with the Greco-Roman style of creating pillars in the shape of human forms, Labrona painted large, individual figures at the base of each column. Above them, a mural of city life, of packed crowds, unfolds across the concrete.
With an underpass transformed into a public park, and concrete pillars metamorphosed into human forms, the park allows us to re-conceptualize urban space and civic infrastructure. The street below is more vibrant and vital to our civic DNA than the road above.
Labrona's human pillars, holding up the city above them, tell us that the most crucial civic infrastructure we have is not the concrete that holds up the road, but the people and communities that hold up society. Art has the power to reclaim space and make it public, and it has the power to remind us that a city's real pillars are its people. That is what holds us up.
Want to see more about Underpass Park? UrbanToronto's dataBase for the project includes plenty of renderings showing the larger space. Want to talk about it all? Choose the link to the associated forum thread to get in on the conversation, or leave a comment in the space provided on this page.
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