zirco fish

In an alley near Dovercourt and Queen West in Toronto are two garage door murals unlike any others.

below: ‘Elephancy’ by Zirco Fish – It’s an elephant but it’s not. Tusks like an elephant and the ears seem to be big a floppy. But the mouth is like a beak and the eyes are certainly not those of an elephant. A crazy fantastical creature, the product of someone’s imagination.

a street art mural on a garage door, rust coloured wood garage.  Image looks like an elephant
mural on a grage door, another garage door that has been tagged, graffiti on a fence, the back of a house, in a lane.

below: ‘Scrat Attack’ by Zirco Fish. 

mural of a cat head, in memory of Scrat, painted by James Zirco Fisher, on a garage door in an alley

New Dawn collaboration

New Dawn is the name given to the latest laneway street art mural painting project. It is a celebration of the 10th anniversary of StreetARToronto.

The alley runs parallel to Queen Street West (just west of Ossington); it crosses Brookfield and Fennings streets.

mural part of new dawn project, painting by Nick Sweetman standing on a ladder as he paints bees on the top part of the mural

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The largest mural of the project is a collaboration between five artists: Meagan Kehoe, Kreecha, Bacon, Sight, and Nick Sweetman.

contributions by bacon, a flower, and kreecha, calligraphy designs in white and gold, on a mural
mural, part of, a large cat's head in silver and gold with long whiskers and a gold coloured eye.  Cat painted by street artist Bacon and calligraphy by kreecha
mural part of new dawn project, painting in progress by Nick Sweetman

This post also appears on the As I Walk Toronto blog.

Spirit Stories under Old Mill

In Toronto, subway tracks cross above the Humber River at Old Mill station. The concrete pillars that support the subway bridge have been covered with many watery blue First Nations themed murals.

Philip Cote Anishinaabe mural of water and spirits on concrete pillar
Philip Cote Anishinaabe mural of water and spirits on concrete pillar

below: The artist, Philip Cote, described the story behind this image on the ArtworxTO website (see link); like all cultures, the Anishinaabe have an origin story.  In the beginning there was just Spirit. “And that spirit decided to send signals out into the universe and waited for a response. And when no response happened that spirit called the signals back and said, “As you come back to me, create light in the universe”. And at that moment they had light and dark in the universe. And that is the beginning of the Anishinaabe cosmology. Everything for Anishinaabe is made of light and dark. Everything we look at has a spirit, everything, the ground, the rocks, the sand, the trees, the birds, the plants, everything is… and even our sun and our Mother Earth and the moon, they all have a spirit.”     

Philip Cote Anishinaabe mural of water and spirits on concrete pillar
connecting with the thousands of galaxies of the universe

The blues of the water, the Humber River, were painted by Kwest. Water is the Underworld in Ahishinaabe cosmology and the Guardians of this Underworld are the fish. Another artist, Jarus aka (Emmanuel Jarus), painted the fish.

Philip Cote Anishinaabe mural of water and spirits on concrete pillar, large grouper fish in the water surrounding the central medallion

Most of the paintings have a well defined circle. This is the boundary between water and earth, between the spirit world and the physical world. But there are connections between the two worlds – all living things are connected and we are all connected to the Spirit World.

Philip Cote Anishinaabe mural of water and spirits on concrete pillar, a mountain of ice in the background
Philip Cote Anishinaabe mural of water and spirits on concrete pillar, a male and a female figure
Philip Cote Anishinaabe mural of water and spirits on concrete pillar, an otter swimming in the water, looking below the surface
Philip Cote Anishinaabe mural of water and spirits on concrete pillar, a turtle shaped animal with a bear head with open mouth trying to catch fish

Clandestinos in a hidden corner

…. of downtown Toronto.

a brick arch with a hanging light near the top, view through the arch is to a multi level parking garage, slight glimpses of a mural on the left side

Shalak Attack and Bruno Smoky have painted another large colourful mural. This one features two women, a baltimore oriole, and many flowers.

mural by Shalak Attack and Bruno Smoky in a narrow passageway

below: Close up of the bird, a baltimore oriole

part of a Clandestinos mural, showing a bird, a baltimore oriole, with a woman's face close to it.  she has her eyes closed

close up of a womans face in a clandestinos mural, butterfly flying past her cheek,another woman behind her with flowers and fruit in her hair, eyes closed.

below: Adorned with leaves, flowers, and fruit – blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Lots of cherry blossoms and another bird too.

cherry blossoms, faces, painted in a mural, fruit and flowers for hair, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries

The Original Peace Treaty

There is a large mural (40′ x 50′) in downtown Toronto on the west wall of the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts on Front Street East. It was painted by Quentin Commanda, aka Que Rock.

large mural with First Nations themes, painted by Quentin Commanda, outdoor scene, butterfly, bear in pink water, fish, turtle island, moose, orange grass, sunset or sunrise sky, woman sitting,

below: Commanda’s “Artist Statement” – see below the picture to read the transcription.

on a wall beside a mural, words that are the artist statement for the mural, also a picture of the artist, Quentin Commanda,

Artist Statement:

This mural is meant to be a visual healing experience. The seven rings around Grandfather Sun represent the seven Grandfather teachings of the Anishinaabe people: Wisdom, Love, Humility, Respect, Honesty, Courage, and Truth. There are many layers of sacred geometry patterns on the mural.

The skyline includes the medicine-wheel teachings, Grandmother Moon and the 13 grandmother clan systems. The turtle shell represents North America’s creation story, the 13 full moons per year, and the seven grandfather teachings.

The entire mural also represents the original Peace Treaty of the Six Nations on Turtle Island (North America). The story of the Six Nations Treaty starts with the original five Nations of Turtle Island: the Plant Nation, the Insect Nation, the Bird Nation, the Fish Nation, and the Animal Nation. All five Nations had to agree to let the Human Nation live here on Mother Earth. All five Nations agreed to be humanity’s teachers and the Human Nation was invited to share the land.

The Human Nation was given instructions on how to live on Mother Earth, walk gentle on Mother Earth, learn one new thing every day, and share with one another. These are some of the original instructions given to the Anishinaabe people. The bear represents a Medicine Clan. The Mukwa (bear) is a healer, it is the only animal who communicates with all Six Nations.

The bottom panel represents my story from the past, present, and future. The first character with the microphone is the future and present me. The second character represents my past as a native child with my dog Miangun and the path of healing I have taken to decolonize myself back to the Anishinaabe child I was born to be.

My mother is a residential school survivor and so was my father. I am no different than the 215 children found in Kamloops, B.C. I survived to tell you this story and share my experiences. My community is still here and so am I.

The Artist is from Nbiising or Nipissing First Nation, his traditional name is Manitou Nemeen (Spirit Dancing) and he is from the Miangun Dodem (Wolf Clan).

The orange background on the mural represents the missing/murdered Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island.

The mural was commissioned by TO Live

Carleton Village murals, Toronto 2021

Even when I walk in Toronto, sometimes I find myself in unfamiliar territory and so it was back in December when I went to investigate some alleys where I’d heard that new murals had been painted.

below: Around Toronto there are quite a few raccoons in murals by Emily May Rose. Here, these “trash pandas” are being watched over by a big white rat. Quite the dumpster fire!

mural in an alley by Emily May Rose of raccoons and a big white rat. One raccoon is setting fire to a dumpster

below: A large mural by BirdO (aka Jerry Rugg) beside Charles Sauriol school

below: Near the birdO mural (you can just see it on the left side here) is a house with street art covering the whole side of it.

the side of a house is covered with street art, 2 or 3 murals on both upper and lower storeys by Phillips Saunders and June Kim, in the background on the left side is a birdo mural

below: A man reaching out a multicoloured hand to a woman by Phillip Saunders covers the back part of the house

murals on the side of a house, a man and a woman with black curly hair

below: A brown octopus and bright coloured tiger playing together – a collaboration between Luvs and June Kim.

mural of a June Kim brightly colored tiger on the side of a house along with a brown octopus by Luvs

below: Baby birds with beaks uplifted in a mural by Bruno Smoky and Clandestinos

mural by Bruno Smoky and Clandestinos on a wood fence in an alley, baby birds in a nest with their beaks open waiting for parents to feed them

below: Blue jay and tomato face, rowdyradrat and Chris Perez

street art on a wood fence in a lane

below: Taking cover under umbrellas on a rainy day in a mural by Elicser Elliott

below: Mural in another lane with a signature says June, Bacon, and Erika.

below: A Nick Sweetman painting of a large Cuckoo wasp feeding on a yellow flower

mural by Nick Sweetman on a garage door in an alley, a large blue green Cuckoo wasp, on a yellow flower

below: A multi-lingual thank you to essential workers on Davenport – obrigado, gracias, merci, and grazie!

below: More of Emily May Roses’s mischievous raccoons and their cans of orange spray paint.

an emily may rose mural on the side of a dark grey building, showing raccoons playing around a white cube van, vandalism with orange spray paint

below: Mediah blues on the right and a Que Rock mural with indigenous themes and symbols on the left.

looking across a park in late December, two garages in an alley painted with murals, on the right is one in blues by mediah.  On the left is mural mural by Que Rock, indigenous themes, loons on the water, mother earth

below: Planta Muisca mural with an orange snake under a purple night sky.

a mural by muisca on a garage door in a lane, an orange snake in the purple night with moon and plant with large leaves

below: Anya Mielniczek’s woman’s face looks down the lane.

mural by Anya Mielniczek of a girls's head in pinks and oranges down a lane, rest of mural blocked by fence

below: A closer look of the mural reveals another woman’s head on the far side along with people mixing together in the central portion painted by Raoul

orange and pink woman's head by Anya Mielniczek along with a picture of a group of people, mostly men, by Raoul

below: Suri in grey tones while drinking, mural by haenahhh

mural on a garage door in an alley by haenahh of a woman sitting with a cup of coffee

below: HeldbyHuda mural

geometrics and shapes, abstract street art mural on a garage door by artist with instagram handle heldbyhuda

below: by Victoria Day

garage door mural by Victoria Day, stylized yellow and green flowers on a blue green gradient background

below: Sections of citrus fruit in glass bowls, real? reflections? by Steam

Steam, the artist, painted a mural on a garage door of citrus fruit sections in glass bowls

below: Fantasy creatures playing in a mural by Kisong Koh

mural by Kisong Koh on the door of a garage in a laneway of three nonsensical fantasy creatures, a purple animal with fins for legs is upside down, a grey creature is wearing blue boxer shorts with pink polka dots and the third has a long yellow beak, one human hand and foot, and long orange hair

below: Mural by Kseniya Tsoy on a garage door.

bright and colourful mural in an alley of a woman with long purplish black hair, very white skin, and a blue low necked top.  She's holding a pomegranate and two branches with green leaves and red flower

Support for the alley murals was provided by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council.

I have included most of the paintings but not all. For a complete set of photos, please take a look on Erika James’s Instagram page as she was one of the organizers of the project and she has documented it well.

These murals also appear on my Walking Toronto blog in two separate posts:
1. Around Wadsworth Park and
2. South of Davenport

new slaps on Toronto streets

don't worry sticker on a pole below: The garbage always leaks before you can get rid of the bag! A trashy Daught calm sticker.

daught calm sticker on a pole of a man in blue pants and sweatshirt holding up a leaking bag of garbage below: Knome with an expression of alarm. a cute little sketchnate puppy and urban ninja squadron sprouted big ears when tbonez teamed up with srats (sketchrats). All on the side of a Canada Post mail box.

stickers on the side of red Canada Post mail boxbelow: 1. The woman with a heart for an eye (got her eye on love?) looks like the work of Italian street artist c_ska. It also looks like she’s taking her temperature. Another c_ska sticker is a naked backside (or is it?) on top of an urban ninja squadron. Yes, you can make jokes about being on top. 2. Talking about jokes, playing on words is daught calm’s ‘be a tuber’ YouTube dig. I guess that’s better than being a potato. 3. The little orange guy, pizza guy? pizza face? is by sketch nate.

stickersbelow: Red chick light bulb, lites creation.

sticker on a grey metal pole, a red con shaped bird over a light bulbbelow: Looking for a drink?

white soda can, pop can, draawing on a sticker, on a graffiti covered wall below: Brian has become an astronaut.

an astronaut shaped slap graffiti that someone has written the name Brian on below: Morbid, Icey, etc. along with the bearded face of No love; Alone boy in black and white by ozokoh. And of course, don’t worry. It took a while… but see that grey face and its mysterious signature? It’s a lino print by Brian (aka bodh.io)

stickers on the side of a phone booth below: Tbonez with a new face

an urban ninja squadron sticker with a different face intead of tbonezbelow: Urban Ninja Squadron as a climbing frame for a whole slew of little sketch nate characters.

urban ninja squadron sticker, in colour, on a blue background - side of a Bell phone booth below: Forge fury, feelings boi, and a sad puppy (yee hop) by sketch nate.

4 stickers graffiti on the back of a street sign, a yellow forge fury wiggly line sticker, a black feelings boi with white line drawing, a small white dog by sketchnate below: Pikachu and a pokeball…. and a pokemon character that I don’t know.

pokemon and poke ball sticker on a painted pole

people in graffiti alley

a man in a grey puffy jacket taking a picture of another man who is posing beside street art