Category Archives: Community News

Mural Painting Underway at Garden and Roncesvalles

In partnership with StreetARToronto, we commissioned artists Philip Cote and Jim Thierry Bravo to collaborate on a mural for Roncesvalles Village.  In the cool hours of the day, you’ll find them painting the wall on the north east side of Roncesvalles and Garden Ave. They will work through July until finished. The official launch will be on October 20, 2018. Meanwhile, you can enjoy the work in progress.

Artist seated in front of white brick wall that features animal spirits painted in the Woodland style.

In the twilight, Philip Cote adds finishing touches on the bear at 149 Roncesvalles Avenue.

Cote and Bravo’s design concept reflects the thematic framework set out by the RVBIA’s StreetArt Advisory Committee. These themes include: Nature in the City, the Urban Community, and the interconnected concepts of Legacy, Sustainability and Stewardship. Their collaboration also draws on some of the insights gleaned from several community consultations. These affirmed that the people of Roncesvalles love being so close to High Park and Lake Ontario. They cherish all the trees and the gardens that make this a healthy and lovely place to live. Locals and visitors alike appreciate the sense of community, the village vibe, and tender loving care you can feel here.

Cote and Bravo bring together the sensibilities of a First Nations artist with those of a first generation Canadian artist. Bravo’s family immigrated to Canada in 1985 and settled in Toronto when he was young. Both have lived on Roncesvalles Avenue and are well known mural artists in this City. They have witnessed how the neighbourhood has changed in the past 30 years.

For example, Roncesvalles Village has much fewer Polish residents and businesses than it once did, but many people of Polish heritage enjoy celebrating their cultural roots here. In fact, our BIA still runs the two-day Roncesvalles Polish Festival each September. “The demographics of urban neighborhoods can change rapidly,” says RVBIA Chair Len McAuley, “so we must find ways to celebrate the culture of the new community of residents and businesses that have settled here more recently. Likewise, it is time to acknowledge that for thousands of years before the arrival of the British, Irish and Scottish to this area that is now called Roncesvalles Village, there thrived indigenous people whose tribes made up the First Nations.” These included the Anishinaabek, Wendat, Mississauga and and Haudenosaunee, among others before them. “Their shared ethos was—and still is— to serve as stewards of the land for future generations. Their stories reflect this.”

“People around the world have become more aware of the environmental impact of industrial waste and careless human lifestyles,” says RVBIA Manager, Veronica Feihl. “And, consequently of our responsibility to protect the air, water and soil along with nature’s rich variety of plants and animals that form healthy ecosystems. Not just for our own sake but for our descendants,” she adds. “So there is something to be learned from the First Peoples who lived on this land for ages before the newcomers arrived. Here’s an opportunity to look and listen, while enjoying some time in the neighbourhood.”

The BIA will provide online video and audio clips of the work in progress and hopes to share some of the stories and meaning behind the symbols on this mural.

PHILIP COTE ARTIST STATEMENT

The vision of my work starts with a journey into Indigenous history of this land that dates back 130,000 years and maybe even 200,000 years. The first humans in North America we call the Original People also known as the Anishinaabe “From whence lowered the original man”.

On the design of this mural we have first man and woman taking that first journey across the land and in communion with all life as displayed here by the animals, plants and the Anishinaabe Spirit World.

The design is deeply connected to the creation story of the Anishinaabe as this design with all its black lines speak about the beginning of the universe. In the beginning there was a great black void and in that void there was a spirit who sent out thoughts into the Universe. When no response happened, those thoughts were called back, and the creator said create light as you come back to me. Thus all the stars were born and from them planets were formed.  At the moment we have light and dark in the Universe, for Anishinaabe people believe we are all made of light and dark physical and spirit.

The painted imagery is in the style of woodland painting first created by Norval Morrisseau, an Anishinaabe artist and visionary his work brought the Anishinaabe (first people’s) world into public space in the 1960s. Norval had a deep understanding of the history of the Anishinaabe and created such a stir in the western culture at that time — and in his own community, which was upset that he shared those secret stories with the outsiders. His work describes the culture and mystery of the Anishinaabe people that gives everyone a clearer understanding of who these first people really are.

We have stories of prophets who came to the people a millennium ago to give visions of the future that would come in stages called the Seven Fires. In recent times there has been talk of an Eighth Fire in which the ancestor prophets say that to light the Eighth Fire Indigenous People will come forward with their knowledge connecting with the western knowledge and from this union a new people will emerge, lighting the Eighth and final Fire. This will begin the golden age of peace.

My work reflects this same importance of sharing the story of ancient Anishinaabe footsteps that crossed Roncesvalles in days gone by. It’s inspiring to know that we the Anishinaabe Peoples are still here sharing stories/oral histories much as our ancestors did for thousands of years and thus bringing the values of our culture into the present day and breaking down the stereotypes and racism that still prevails today. I am happy to be part of these changes in our country called Canada.

JIM BRAVO ARTIST STATEMENT

I have been given a great and honorable artistic challenge.  Artistic collaborations are a delicate dance of two visions. My vision for this design comes, I hope, as a sensitive and complimentary response to Mr. Cote’s narrative on the First and Founding Peoples of this region of our City/Province, etc.  Through an interplay of bold, highly stylized and graphic illustration (as a method through which to correspond with Cote’s Woodlands approach) I have chosen to present a take on what I feel are the three founding attributes of what is at present known as Ward 14/Parkdale-High Park. These three attributes are the waterfront, the long-standing local architecture which has witnessed the coming and going of many different settlers, and the wide natural array of trees, flowers and plant life.  The arrangement of the word “Roncesvalles” is designed to invoke a feeling of movement, change, development, space and inclusion, but ultimately that something is about to eventually settle down – only to be carried off again through progress, symbolized by the land rising out of the water.  I have decorated the word with flowers and plants found in the area and it is these swooping components that propel the word — and thus the community — into the present day. On close inspection various “umbilical” lines stemming to and from the text are placed as connection portals to Mr. Cote’s surrounding narrative.

Philip Cote’s works and CV can be viewed at: www.tecumsehcollective.wixsite.com/philipcote

Jim Thierry Bravo’s works and CV can be viewed at: www.JimBravopaintings.weebly.com

DRAFT DESIGN CONCEPT

The word Roncesvalles is written in staggered letters intertwined with floral elements.. It sits above images of indigenous animal spirits.

Version 2 includes an aqua background and ochre sky.

This design concept by Philip Cote and Jim Thierry Bravo is close to final. There are a few more changes to come including to the lettering of “RONCESVALLES” and the plants and foliage that are intertwined; removal of the blue waves above the moose and buffalo; addition of a forested landmass rising on the right side and some additional details. The final changes will be made directly on the mural. There are seven windows and two doors in the wall to work around. The pharmacy window on the left painted by a previous artist will be retained at the request of the business owners.

Meet Jackie Taschereau

RoncyWorks Green Team Profiles

Jackie Taschereau has been volunteering with RoncyWorks since 2011. She maintains the gardens at 233 and 223 Roncesvalles.

Jackie’s Garden at 233 Roncy

Jackie often refers to her involvement with RoncyWorks as gardening in the “Public Realm” and for good reason. There are many lessons she’s learnt from maintaining a sidewalk garden, including how the physical design of the bed impacts how the public interacts with it. “The slightly raised edge of a planter bed is an irresistible challenge to small children, demanding to be walked along to prove balance skills. This is preceded and followed by hopping on and off the bench.”

Jackie’s Garden at 223 Roncy

Another challenge of Jackie’s and her RoncyWorks volunteers is protecting the gardens from doubling as urban landfills. “Probably as much time is spent picking up garbage as is actually spent on gardening”. The litter Jackie and other gardeners deal far too often includes “cigarette butts and packs, coffee cups, food containers and remains, wrappers, soda cans and plastic bottles.”

Despite these setbacks, Jackie has found the benefits of tending to sidewalk gardens enriching in many ways. “I now have far better knowledge of tough plants that will survive in shade or partial shade”. Another “unforeseen benefit” of gardening has been meeting people from all walks and a newfound understanding of the importance of public gardens to communities. “I’ve got to talk to all sorts of people on the street, whom I would never otherwise have had conservations with,” said Jackie. “I find myself looking at public plantings all over the city, noticing what works and where there are problems.”

 

Meet Abby Bushby

RoncyWorks Green Team Profiles

To mark Garden Days 2018, the Roncesvalles Village BIA is showcasing the dedicated community members who maintain our sidewalk gardens and beautify our vibrant street.

Abby Bushby

Abby Bushby is the Chair the Friends of Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Garden organization and a volunteer gardener with Roncy Works. She maintains the Peace Garden located at the eastern corner of Roncy and Dundas.

The Peace Garden was constructed in 2016, “after a few years of research, advocacy, community collaborations, artistic planning, and drumming up of support.” This collaboration included a partnership with the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, who have designated the Peace Garden as a “place of heritage and continued interest through the Moccasin Identifier Project.

According to Abby, advocating for the Peace Garden was about beautification and commemoration. “Gardening at the Peace Garden grew out of a wish to green and beautify a sad and sterile intersection at Dundas and Roncy with an odd, concrete jut of land,” said Abby. “The Peace Garden celebrates the historical origins of this portion of Dundas Street, as both an Indigenous path, and as a military road for the Battle of York 1813.” In addition to the historical significance of the Peace Garden, Abby also appreciates “nurturing the native species of trees, grasses and floral plants, as well as the companionship of other Peace Garden and RoncyWorks gardeners.”

Sprouting Sacred Tobacco

One unique attribute of the Peace Garden is how it features indigenous sacred plants and art engravings, known as the Peace Path. “We continue to work with Indigenous partners to grow and illustrate traditional Indigenous agriculture. Last year it was a Three Sisters Mound of corn, beans, squash, as taught to us by growers at Six Nations of the Grand River. This year we are growing sacred tobacco from seeds gifted by a woman from Sheguiandah First Nation, and planted by Chief Stacey Laforme of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation.”

Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Garden

Maintaining the Peace Garden and its public square is raft of challenges, due in large part to its location and popularity. “Maintenance of the Garden presents some challenge. Maria Kolos and I sweep up butts and pull coffee cups out of the plant beds. We clear furniture and advertisement clutter from the displayed community arts projects.” However, receiving compliments on the Peace Garden and explaining its purpose to visitors makes all of the maintenance worth it. “More rewarding though, every time we garden, one or more passersby stop to say ‘thanks’, and to chat about the purposes of the Peace Garden, which enriches us all.  In every conversation we learn a little, and impart a little more appreciation of public, streetside garden for a greener community.”

Learn more about the Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Garden here. 

Meet Mary Wiens

RoncyWorks Green Team Profiles

In celebration of Garden Days 2018, the Roncesvalles Village BIA is showcasing the dedicated community members who maintain our sidewalk gardens and beautify our vibrant street.

Mary Wiens

Mary Wiens has been a volunteer gardener with RoncyWorks since the community group was established in 2011. Mary helped launch RoncyWorks because “she was excited to continue involvement with other people in the community who had been meeting to discuss some improvements to the public realm along Roncesvalles”. Mary maintains the garden at 305 Roncesvalles in front of The Dizzy Gastro Sports Pub.

During her time on the Roncesvalles Renewed committee, Mary and her fellow residents advocated for improved greenery on the street. Through community engagement and partnerships with local officials, Roncesvalles Renewed secured funding for various beautification initiatives proposed by residents. This included 21 new garden beds and “better planting of street trees, which at that time struggled to survive in small concrete planter boxes that were both an impediment and an eyesore along Roncesvalles.”

Mary’s Garden at 305 Roncy

RoncyWorks sprung from Roncesvalles Renewed in 2011, after committee members and residents expressed interest in maintaining the new gardens. “Using the friendships and relationships we’d forged in that process, it made sense to build on them, by creating teams to tend the new garden beds.”

For Mary, developing friendships with RoncyWorks volunteers and community members has made public gardening especially rewarding. “I’ve met some of the best people in the neighbourhood through this community work, and my encounters with a growing circle of friends any time I go out on Roncy are enormously enriching.” It is this sense of community that also makes each of the gardeners’ beds unique in Mary’s view. “The tough little rose bushes in my bed in front of The Dizzy surprise and delight me every year, as do the plants tended by my fellow gardeners. The planting beds have a charm and personality that you don’t see in professionally maintained beds tended by the city’s parks and rec department.”

Of course, overseeing a public garden is not easy. It requires flexibility and patience. However, learning from one another has allowed Mary and her fellow gardeners to overcome the challenges affecting their gardens. “We share our victories and failures — everything from painting butt tins to a good rainfall, to our battle with dogs and vandals — with each other online. We take the vandalism,the dogs and the cigarette butts more personally. But we also take every good rainfall and every compliment from a passerby more personally as well.”

Meet Karen Pivnick

RoncyWorks Green Team Profiles

In celebration of Garden Days 2018, the Roncesvalles Village BIA is showcasing the dedicated community members who maintain our sidewalk gardens and beautify our vibrant street.

Garden at 413 Roncesvalles

Karen Pivnick is volunteer gardener for Roncy Works and a resident of Roncesvalles Village for over 30 years. She maintains the garden bed at 413 Roncesvalles Ave, in front of the Westerly Bar and Village Meat deli. 

This is Karen’s second  season gardening with RoncyWorks. Karen joined RoncyWorks to combine “her love of gardening” with community involvement. She took over maintenance of the native plant garden planted by former RoncyWorks Green Team volunteer, Heidi Eisenhauer, after she moved away. What she finds most inspiring about gardening is watching her plants evolve and flourish, as well as seeing the joy her garden brings to people.

Karen Pivnick

Karen began gardening at a young age, experiencing the “creativity and work that was required” through her parents early on. As a homeowner, Karen has been “maintaining the plants on her property for over 30 years”.   

Despite her experience, being “a part of RoncyWorks and working with a dedicated group of gardeners” has allowed her to learn more about gardening from fellow community members. Furthermore, maintaining a street garden has given her a different perspective of the craft. “We can care for street gardens as you would a personal garden,” said Karen. “However, you need to manage expectations when a garden is in a public space. Selected plants must be able to survive wear and tear, worn soil and drought conditions.”