A Mural That Connects
On Sept. 28, two days before the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a new mural was unveiled hanging on the southwest of the Laurier library. It’s a colourful piece painted in the woodland style and measures nearly 40ft from end to end. It depicts imagery and symbolism significant for ingenious people, particularly those in the Kitchener-Waterloo area.
“I just want art to be able to ignite and spark conversations, whether it’s art related or conversations about things in general.” Said Laurier University Art Curator Suzanne Luke. She was intimately involved with the mural project’s development.
The project was initially conceived in 2014, but due to many complications, including budget cuts, the pandemic and changes in senior leadership, the project was delayed until a year and a half ago. A national call for an artist was sent out, and the artist eventually chosen was Mike Cywink.
“Mike was selected because of the artistic merit of his work and his commitment to community engagement, an element which really resonated with the jury members..”
Part of what makes this mural so unique is that it was a genuinely collaborative effort featuring Laurier students, faculty, community members, and even Mayor Dorothy McCabe getting involved with painting the massive mural. The mural was painted by several artists simultaneously; its creation was a collaborative one.
“As University Art Curator and an arts advocate – it’s really important to have a feeling of engagement and investment from your communities when it comes to public art commissions. So, having the Laurier community and local citizens actively involved in the creative process and final outcome gives greater impact and meaning to our mural.”
More than just indigenous iconography, the mural is specific to the Kitchener-Waterloo region and filled with deeper meaning. Here is an excerpt from a condensed summary given by Cywink:
‘We have the grand river flowing through the piece, which is one of the main reasons of such a high Indigenous population in the area. The 2 teepees represent home. Your original home, where you come from and Laurier, the place that is your home for a portion of your journey. We have the eagle looking out over the people. The one who flies closest to creator. Carrying our prayers and positivity with him. The 7 orbs in the sky represent truth, love, honesty, respect, wisdom, humility and courage. All gifts we should walk with.’
The mural unveiling drew an impressive number of spectators and media members to witness the momentous occasion. This coming together for the unveiling and the process of creating the mural share something in common with what is depicted on it.
“I hope when viewers look at the mural, they experience a landscape that is very inclusive… [Cywink] has created a mural that represents universal connections.”
While up to interpretation, this may be the message many grasp from the mural: inclusivity and togetherness. It is through these notions that change is achieved and communities grow stronger.