By Elaine Smith
Congress 2023 attendees at York University are invited to take part in the creation of a community mural that addresses the conference theme, Reckonings and Re-Imaginings.
Throughout Congress 2023, two local artists and five student artists from Westview Centennial Secondary School in the nearby Jane-Finch neighbourhood will be painting this three-panel mural on the patio of York’s Second Student Centre. They will be on site daily to work on the mural and answer questions about the concept and process. Everyone is welcome to stop by and add some colour to their creation.
“This project was conceived as a way for Congress 2023 to mark a milestone in our commitment to supporting the communities in and around our campus,” said Joel Ong, a professor in the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design and member of the Congress 2023 Scholarly Planning Committee. “This amplifies the work of initiatives like the Jane Finch Social Innovation Hub and the York U-TD Community Engagement Centre to provide opportunities for students and faculty to contribute to the relationship-building process between the University and its neighbours.”
Local artists Andre Lopez and Philip Saunders, and the students who are part of a specialized arts and culture group at Westview Centennial, are the main artistic team for the mural. It will depict Canada and the diverse faces that have contributed to our country. Attendees are invited to stop by en route to their meetings to see the mural develop over the week.
“The students involved in this project have vision and creativity, but haven’t had the opportunity to work on a big project before,” said Kayode Brown, who is driving the project. Brown is a graduate student in the Faculty of Education and founder of Just BGraphic, a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to revolutionize arts education by challenging and decolonizing arts as they are currently taught in the educational system. “The group took the words Reckonings and Re-Imaginings and brainstormed about what it meant to them. The mural will draw on the history of different cultures who have contributed to Canada and emphasize those voices.
“The border will be wrapped in Indigenous words and imagery and the inside panels will depict natural features with diverse faces blended into them.”
Brown is working with Ong, and Ana Medeiros, head of the arts at Westview Centennial Secondary School, to bring the mural to fruition. Westview Centennial has just been named an arts school, and Brown sees the mural as “modelling a way to decolonize the arts.”
The artists and student artists will also work with Brown to create a 10-minute podcast that gives addition context. A QR code posted on site will give visitors audio access to their perspectives.
After Congress 2023 comes to a close, the finished mural – approximately 7 metres by 1 metre – will be installed on the ground floor of Ross Hall outside the offices of the Jane Finch Social Innovation Hub (N141) – a campus space where York students from the local community have access to study groups, tutoring, information workshops and trips – all services that help with navigating the academic, social and administrative elements of university life.
It will serve as a perfect reminder of York’s commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) such as reduced inequality; sustainable cities and communities; and partnerships for the goals.
York University and the Federation for Humanities and Social Sciences will host Congress 2023 from May 27 to June 2. Register here to attend, community passes are available and term dates have been adjusted to align with timelines for this year’s event.