New murals installed uptown to inspire community healing

Photo by Darien Funk

Six new murals have been installed in uptown Waterloo this month, with the intent of inspiring community healing.

Installed along the parking garage at 60 King Street South facing Willis Way, these murals are also featured as a part of the city of Waterloo’s Uptown Waterloo Mural Walk

“It’s the second year we’ve done murals on that [parking garage], we call it a temporary public art installation because it is hosted on municipal property, and we commissioned six murals this year all with the theme of community healing,” said Sonya Poweska, culture program specialist for the City of Waterloo. 

Each of the six murals is a different interpretation of what community healing means to the artist.

“I posed it to the artists and said, ‘this is the theme we’re choosing, whatever community healing means to you,’” Poweska said. 

“I invited certain artists who I thought would really explore the themes in sensitive and pertinent ways to submit their ideas to us and I was so pleasantly surprised. Every single one of the artists took a different approach to it.”

“So that means that we have a bunch of different artists doing a bunch of different things. Some are about social justice, some are about exploring issues of queer identity, Indigenous identity. One is about COVID, one is about using nature as a healing methodology during COVID as well,” Poweska added.

This mural project was meant to be a part of the city’s annual Open Streets Festival, which was cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We would have had people come and [paint] … as part of the event. Instead, we staggered it throughout the summer. Some artists came and painted at the Visitor Centre for people to watch, other artists painted in their studios and documented it by video,” Poweska said. 

With the global pandemic and many other ongoing social issues, the community healing theme is timely and relevant.

“This year it seemed so pertinent. So many people in our community were identifying some issues in our community, then we were in the middle of the lockdown and it seemed so pertinent to have as an exploratory element and have artists explore that in their work,” Poweska said.

As a part of the self-guided Uptown Waterloo Mural Walk, murals of various themes can be seen in spots around the city such as the Hughes Lane Art Walk, Waterloo Public Square, the Uptown Waterloo parking garage, as well as the Waterloo Visitor and Heritage Information Centre. 

“I think that they’re all beautiful. And I think all of the artists have such different approaches to things,” Poweska said. 

“They all just speak to so many different people in so many different ways and each day every single one of them changes for me as to what my favorite is, because I need a different one in my life every single day.”

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