New bike lanes are not the only reason why Dupont has recently moved up on my list of preferred cycling routes. Just this Tuesday, as I approached the unfriendly intersection where Annette, Dundas West, and Dupont meet, and descended into the underpass that dips below the rail corridor, I was met with an amazing new feature that further bolstered my sense of belonging on the street: a beautiful new bike-themed mural that stretches the entirety of the south wall of the underpass.
Behind this project is the city-wide arts initiative, Art Starts, which, with the support of the City’s Graffiti Transformation Program, has hired two lead artists and five local youth to design and paint the mural. The project aims to provide youth employment opportunities, engage new development in the community, and draw attention to local themes. The development of the concept and design of the piece came about through a process of community consultation and brainstorming: the team organized meetings at local cafes and libraries, and consulted with groups such as the local residents association and the Toronto Cyclists Union.
Lead artist, Josh Barndt, explains their choice of the bike as the central motif as inspired by a number of factors, including the desire to create a kind of homage to cyclists and artist, Galen Kuellmer, who was killed at the intersection five years ago. An image from one of Kuellmer’s photographs is even incorporated into the mural.
The symbolism of the wheel is overt, as it “develops into a movable piece that propels progress,” says Barndt, catapulting the mural through a kind of evolution of cycling in Toronto. The cyclists depicted encounter and overcome various familiar obstacles, such as a heap of old car tires and waste — there’s even an Igor Kenk-inspired character, diabolically hoarding away mountains of bicycles. Youth participant Keinon Grant, pictured above, paints the slogan of the cyclists union, as the scene unfolds to display a parade of diverse cyclists, pushing through to approach a kind of utopian city scene.
The view of this new community gem provides another reason to divert your usual route and venture along Dupont.
Involved in the creation of the mural were:
Lead artists – Jamie Bradbury and Joshua Barndt
Youth Artists – Curtia Wright , Hayley Fromstein, Gifty Singh, Quentin Vercetty, Keinon Grant