Photo: A section of the mural painting along Victoria Park Avenue, north of Finch Ave., East.
"Tough times don't last, only tough people do."
This was the message Chester Le tenants were determined to tell visitors during the unveiling of a new community mural along Victoria Park Avenue, north of Finch Avenue, East.
Over a year ago, tenants comforted each other following the loss of an elderly member of the community to deadly violence. The incident was a wake-up call. Tenants started organizing themselves, launched a community safety group, and engaged youth to lead the development of a collaborative project that would unite the community.
On Saturday, Mayor John Tory, local City Councillor Jim Karygiannis and new President and CEO, Kathy Milsom, joined together in solidarity with Chester Le tenants and other friends of the community to unveil a new mural dedicated to the resilience of Chester Le.
The mural was created by six Chester Le youth: Randy, 19; Thomas, 17; Bennita, 16; Shuley, 19; and Zakaria, 17, under the mentorship of visual artist Adrian Hayles.
“The young people working on this project are the future of this community,” said Mayor Tory. “Programs like this are an indication of why we all have to work together given our diversity.”
The mural’s theme, “We are Chester,” is an expression that symbolizes the resilience of Chester Le tenants. The symbolism that was used represents the diversity of the community and its various personalities.
The youth artists with the support of Toronto Community Housing’s partner, Agincourt Community Services Association, consulted with other tenants and neighbours over several weeks to curate ideas for the designs. They ensured that tenants of all ages and abilities were engaged in the process.
Toronto Community Housing CEO Kathy Milsom, took time to meet with the youth and to hear their stories. “The team did an outstanding job. The process leading to the unveiling of this iconic community mural and the cooperation of everyone involved are the building blocks of a safe and healthy community,” she said.
After the mural unveiling, residents walked together to the Chester Le Park to enjoy barbecue, entertainment and played various games. It was truly a community affair and a memorable way to celebrate the accomplishments of everyone involved in creating the mural.
The mural was made possible with funds and support from the City of Toronto’s Mural and Street Art Grant Program, StreetARToronto, Agincourt Community Services Association (ACSA) and Ward 39 Councillor Karygiannis, who represents the community at City Council.