If you've passed by Grid Condos in the last couple of months—CentreCourt's recently completed 50-storey tower at the southeast corner of Jarvis and Dundas in Downtown Toronto—then you may have seen a Woodland Painting-style mural gracing its south wall near ground level. Titled 'The Original Family’, the mural is a work of indigenous art created by renowned artist and educator, Phillip Cote.

'The Original Family' on a recent evening, at the base of Grid Condos, image by Craig White

Cote, a 2015 graduate of OCAD University’s Interdisciplinary Master’s in Art, Media and Design, has been improving bare patches of the city in recent years by bringing Indigenous stories with their brilliantly coloured and distinctive symbolism to such places as the formerly bare pillars that hold Old Mill subway station aloft above the Humber Valley, and the walls of the Humber Sewage Treatment Plant as seen from the cycling trail near the mouth of the river.

One panel of Phillip Cote's work on the walls of the Humber Sewage Treatment Plant, image by Craig White

At Grid Condos, the location for a mural was first suggested by Ward 13 Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam. Mitch Gascoyne, CentreCourt’s VP of Development, recalled that “Councillor Wong-Tam asked us to consider an artistic treatment of Grid’s south facade. Considering the influence and impact that Indigenous culture and history has had on our country, the Councillor and CentreCourt believed that an Indigenous Art motif would be most appropriate. In May of 2018, we selected Phillip Cote to bring the project to life.”  

'The Original Family' at Grid Condos, by Phillip Cote for CentreCourt

Cote proffered a number of ideas for the mural, and ‘The Original Family’—the Anishinaabe creation story of The First Man (Waynaboozhoo), The First Woman, and their sacred union—was selected. Cote explained, “It is a depiction of one of our oldest stories. The Anishinaabe Creation Story was brought down through oral traditions and pictographic images drawn on birch-bark scrolls.”

Work began on the mural in the fall of 2018 and continued for four months. “It has been an absolute pleasure working with Phillip,” said Gascoyne. “And in equal measure, Councillor Wong-Tam’s leadership and foresight on this project has been invaluable to us. CentreCourt is committed to honouring what is best in our communities, and ‘The Original Story’ is a vibrant reminder of the proud, strong indigenous foundation upon which we build.”

'The Original Family' on a recent evening, at the base of Grid Condos, image by Craig White

Councillor Wong-Tam issued the following remarks on the completion of the art; "It is exciting to welcome this substantial, Indigenous-centred mural work that speaks to the presence and rich history of Indigenous peoples in this location. Phillip Cote is an award-winning artist whose work is widely respected. I thank CentreCourt for their sponsorship of his work, and support of Indigenous placemaking. The mural is located across from the new Indigenous Centre for Innovation & Entrepreneurship at 200 Dundas St. East. I sincerely hope that these initiatives will move us closer to the goal of establishing an Indigenous Business District in this neighbourhood."

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