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Aboriginal youth create inspirational mural for Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre

Work began on Monday installing a mural created by six young artists through an arts program for Aboriginal youth offered by Native Child and Family Services. (Photo by Ken Jones)

The ripple effect of a stone cast in water is an almost universal concept.  The Ojibwa have a name for it: miziwe biik, and it sums up the spirit and legacy of the art installation at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre.

Partly commissioned by the Aboriginal Participation Program of the Toronto 2015 Pan Am and Parapan American Games, the mural is the work of six young artists.  The sport of lacrosse and connections with nature, spirit and the land are depicted in the bright and vibrant palette of the TO2015 brand on a series of 8 by 4 foot maple panels to be hung in the main entry corridor of the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre, the aquatic and sport facility jointly owned by the University of Toronto Scarborough and the City of Toronto.

“It’s very holistic in terms of sports, wellness and community,” says Kenn Ross, senior manager of aboriginal relations for TO2015.  “It’s very inspiring.”

In response to a call for proposals, the group came together and the work was co-ordinated by 7th Generation Image Makers, an arts program for Aboriginal youth offered by Native Child and Family Services.

“It was a youth-led package,” says Ross, noting that the oldest of the project leaders was 22.  “7th Generation has a consultative and community based approach, and community consultations informed the image.”

The TO2015 organizers have made a strong commitment to Aboriginal participation, creating strategies for economic development, volunteer recruitment, arts and culture initiatives, and youth engagement.  First Nations representatives will be integral to the Games, participating in recognition protocols, ceremonies, special events and welcoming dignitaries.

There are more than 32,000 Aboriginal people in the GTA, or about 13 per cent of the total population of enumerated Aboriginal people in Ontario, and over 350 native people in the Kingston Galloway area of Scarborough. “Looking at the local community, it makes sense to have Aboriginal input,” Ross says. 

Ross feels the prominent location of the mural is appropriate.  “UTSC has an increasing number of Aboriginal students, and has done a lot to build bridges with the community,” he says, pointing out links with the Aboriginal Sports and Wellness Council of Ontario and the successful summer camp program for Aboriginal youth developed by Department of Athletics and Recreation. “There is a need to find ways to encourage Aboriginal people to be in post-secondary education.  UTSC is building on that and it’s all going in the right direction.”

“There is a circular motion that results from this project. It has hit so many circles, and having impacts everywhere.”

The mural, which has been funded by the Province of Ontario and the Audrey S. Hellyer Foundation, will be officially unveiled later this year at a special presentation at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre.


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