Women Paint Riverside murals explore Indigenous nations’ connections to rivers and lakes

Photo above, Bareket Kezwer helps youngsters create a mural during the Women Paint Riverside celebration last Saturday. Inset photos show Jennifer Lay, one of the event's organizers; and one of the 20 laneway murals created in the area of Broadview Avenue and Queen Street East. Photos by Amarachi Amadike.


Toronto residents gathered recently in celebration of new public art murals in the city’s east end.

Women Paint Riverside was organized by the Riverside BIA (Business Improvement Area), East End Arts, Native Women In The Arts, StreetARToronto and Women Paint. The program revolves around murals designed by women or non-binary artists.

“That was the focus from the very beginning,” said Jennifer Lay, one of the organizers. “We wanted to highlight the art, ideas and inspirations from local female artists. It’s been amazing.”

All murals in the laneway explored the element of water as homage to Indigenous nations.

According  to East End Arts website “women and Two Spirit people have long carried sacred responsibilities to protect the water, and are strong  leaders in the growing movement for water sovereignty around the Great Lakes.”

It seemed fitting that the project followed this theme considering Riverside’s close relations to the Don River and Lake Ontario.

As the celebration on Saturday, Sept. 25, took place, Women Paint founder and muralist Bareket Kezwer guided some local children as they completed a mural together.

Bareket who has been a full time painter since 2016 aims to elevate other female artists and create more opportunities for them.

“I hope Women Paint is a space where women and gender marginalized artists can meet and be inspired by one another, learn from each other and build a supportive community”, Kezwer said of the murals painted in laneways in the Broadview Avenue and Queen Street East area.

Artists for Women Paint Riverdale were formally selected in a jury process following a call out through East End Arts. The initial search for 10 female or marginalized street artists was expanded to 20 in order to include some of the shortlisted applicants.

“This is the biggest public art project we’ve done in the past five years,” said Lay. “We’ll keep on doing more murals but this is a huge one.”

Among those in attendance at Saturday’s celebration was Toronto-Danforth MP Julie Dabrusin, who hailed the Women Paint organizers including the Riverside BIA for their efforts.

“It’s also a good chance to give tribute to BIA for the fact that a lot of their murals historically have involved Indigenous People and making sure to amplify community voices,” said Dabrusin.

Women Paint Riverside was part of the BIA’s Streetscape Masterplan to “evaluate streetscape improvements and guide the continuing development of the streetscape.”

It also served to rid the neighbourhood of vandalism and stimulate conversation about the safety of women and marginalized people in and around alleys and laneways that do not always feel safe.

The project also created an opportunity for Girl’s Mural Camp 2021 participants to test as apprentice mural artists.

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