19th National Mural Symposium Program

Saturday November 2, 2019 – Full Symposium Day
The Spoke Club, 600 King St W., Toronto

For over 20 years, Mural Routes has brought the mural art community together for learning, sharing and networking. This year we highlight and celebrate murals as a tool for Exchange and creative gateway for public dialogue.  Presenters will share local and international projects and ideas to illustrate how the value of a mural lies not only in the art left behind, but in the process of exchanging skills, perspectives, stories and experiences. We invite you to join us, learn from your peers, and walk away with a new perspective on mural art.

Saturday November 2, 2019 – Full Symposium Day
The Spoke Club, 600 King St W

For over 20 years, Mural Routes has brought the mural art community together for learning, sharing and networking. This year we highlight and celebrate murals as a tool for Exchange and creative gateway for public dialogue.  Presenters will share local and international projects and ideas to illustrate how the value of a mural lies not only in the art left behind, but in the process of exchanging skills, perspectives, stories and experiences. We invite you to join us, learn from your peers, and walk away with a new perspective on mural art.

8:30am Registration & Breakfast

9:00am Welcome & Land Acknowledgement: Duke Redbird

9:30am Keynote Speaker: PA System

11:00am Break

11:15am Public Art, Colour and Mental Health: Jacquie Comrie

12:45pm Lunch & Learn: Golden Artist Colors

1:30pm Murals as a Medium

Art and Diplomacy
Rodrigo Ardiles

Transforming Neighbourhoods with Utility Box Murals:
Michael Cavanaugh

Mural Art In Iran: The Impact of Three Major Social and Historical Changes
Atessa Hooshvar

3:00pm Break

3:15pm International Exchanges with Local Impact The STEPS Initiative

4:00pm Mentorship & Legacy: From Garage Doors to International Walls StreetARToronto

4:45pm Q&A

5:15pm Closing Remarks

5:30pm Optional Mingle & Cash Bar

6:30pm Goodbyes


Speaker Bios & Session Descriptions

PA System

PA System (Alexa Hatanaka and Patrick Thompson) create public artwork and work in textile, printmaking, painting, and video. They exhibit in institutions internationally, such as the Canada House in London, the Fine Arts Center at Colorado College, and the Art Gallery of Ontario. They have created public artworks and community-engaged works across Inuit Nunangat (Inuit homelands within Canadian arctic), Canada and internationally. PA System has an ongoing project called Embassy of Imagination (EOI) based in Kinngait (Cape Dorset, Nunavut) working for and with Kinngait youth. EOI animates yearly art workshops, and creates collaborative community art projects, including public murals, performances, and exhibitions, within Kinngait, across Canada and internationally. EOI is a reciprocal sharing of knowledge and ideas, prioritizing youth voices, expressing cross-cultural collaboration and shared human experience as an embodied practice and in material form. PA System and EOI are creating new work for the forthcoming Toronto Biennial of Art 2019.

Keynote Address: The Common Language of Colour
Alexa Hatanaka and Patrick Thompson (PA System) will present and discuss their background with collaborative and socially-engaged projects. Their presentation will demonstrate their experience with the exchange of knowledge and ideas as an embodied practice and in material form.

Rodrigo Ardiles

Producer, Visual Artist and Cultural Agent, Rodrigo Ardiles has been using technology and art to engage communities in the Americas and Europe since the mid-eighties. His passion is to depict the local testimonies of marginalized youth and artists across the globe through murals and creative arts. Rodrigo’s award winning creative designs act as a tool to promote dialogue about the pressing social issues of our times. He was commissioned by Peter Gabriel to produce the first graffiti exhibition in the U.K. (2016). Rodrigo’s latest initiative “Creative Cities” has led him to build innovative partnerships and produce Canadian murals in Portugal, Cuba and in Chile.

Session – Art and Diplomacy
This session will present an overview of experiences that deal with international relations, visual arts and communications. Many times murals are considered the medium to express social and political views of territories, traditions and cultural values. Governments and political agents often turn to the Arts to convey statements in circumstances that other mediums fail. In this scenario the Artists often become the bridge that consolidate international relations on local and global levels.

Michael Cavanaugh

Michael Cavanaugh is an artist and since 2009 has been director of the Bell Box Murals Project, producing over 300 murals in 39 communities. Michael’s own recent murals include the Neighbourhood of Nations Mural, the Cabbagetown Neighbours Heritage Mural, the Rose of Cabbagetown mural and four Bell box murals.

Session – Transforming Neighbourhoods with Utility Box Murals
The Bell Boxes Murals Project is a community-engaged art program of Community Matters Toronto, located in the St James Town neighbourhood of Toronto. Since 2009 artists from the project have painted 350 murals on Bell Canada outdoor utility boxes in 44 communities throughout Toronto, Southern Ontario and Quebec. Participants will hear about how Bell box murals facilitate the conversation of a community about itself by working with local project partners to identify box locations, choose themes, and select the final artists.

Jacquie Comrie

Jacquie Comrie is a multidisciplinary artist whose vibrant body of work intersects contemporary art and wellness at a global scale. Colour is her medium of social impact and well-being at large.

Whether as murals on buildings, large scale structures, or canvases, her work is a dynamic exploration of the science of colour as the universal language of human emotion. Colour has been proven to have a direct effect to human emotion, for which her palettes are consciously designed to cater to mental well-being.

In such divisive times, and with mental health issues on the rise across the globe, her work continues to transform spaces, into environments of mental elevation and reset, to ultimately help improve quality of life of all individuals- one wall at a time.

Session – Public Art, Colour and Mental Health
As an artist and mental health advocate, utilizing colour as a tool of social transformation has helped Comrie beautify city spaces, while catering to the mental wellbeing of its inhabitants. The objective of this session is to raise awareness of colour as an effective tool in public art. The lecture portion of the session will touch on science of colour, theory and its effects on human emotion and behaviour; a creative workshop on sensory of colour will follow: on a large surface or canvas, participants will be asked to collaborate and create one collective piece while encouraging self reflection, self-awareness and exploration of one’s emotions through colour sensory.

Atessa Hooshvar

“I am a person drifting between the two worlds of Science and the Arts. I call myself a Right-brainer with analytical qualities. I studied mathematics at the University of Tehran (1991) and received training on Iranian literature, art and architecture history, and traditional music from early on. My thesis focused on the relationship between music/art and math. Since then, I have continued to work in music and visual arts professionally. I am a storyteller, illustrator, music performer and maker. In Toronto, I have participated in solo and group exhibitions and have had numerous musical performances in Iran and Canada.”

Session – Mural Art In Iran: The Impact of Three Major Social and Historical changes
Hooshvar was born and lived in Iran until the age of 28. During that time, she was able to observe three major historical and social changes (the Islamic Revolution of Iran 1977-1979, the Iran/Iraq War 1980-1988, and the Post-war and Development Era after 1988). Through imagery from the streets of Tehran, Hooshvar will speak to these changes and their reflection on Iranian mural art.

The STEPS Initiative

Alexis Kane Speer brings over 10 years of experience managing public arts, urban planning and community engagement initiatives across the public, private and nonprofit sectors. She is STEPS Executive Director and has served on the National Congress Committee for Culture Days, the Advisory Board of the Toronto Arts Council’s Neighbourhood Arts Network, as well as the Adult Committee for the Skylark Youth Services Art Gallery.


Bebhinn Jennings is STEPS Program Manager and has spent the last decade of her creative practice on developing interdisciplinary and inter-generational arts programs that build a sense of community, develop new skills and expose participants to opportunities within the arts sector.

Session – International Exchanges with Local Impact
Canadian artists are increasingly being recognized on the international mural-making and street art stage. The ability for Canadian artists to leverage international opportunities begins with facilitating an openness to collaborating with international artists at home. Through drawing on case studies that STEPS’ has facilitated, this session will explore how impactful international exchanges can be. Case studies will include: Equilibrium Mural (Okuda San Miguel, Spain); #StClairMural (Phlegm, UK); Sister Cities Roncesvalles Bridge Revitalization (Justus Roe, USA); Transformations Connected Mural Series (Fats UAE / Canada); Dear Diana Mural (Alfalfa, Uruguay).


StreetARToronto (StART) is a suite of innovative programs designed specifically for streets and public spaces. Initiated in 2012 as an integral part of the City of Toronto’s Graffiti Management Plan, StART has been successful in reducing graffiti vandalism and replacing it with vibrant, colourful, community-engaged street art.

StART programs encourage active transportation (walking and cycling), make our streets more beautiful and safe, showcase local artists, mentor emerging talent, reduce overall infrastructure maintenance costs and more.

Catherine Campbell has worked at the City of Toronto for the past 10 years most currently as a Project Manager for StreetARToronto in the Transportation Services Division. She holds a BFA from the Ontario College of Art with a major in Criticism and Curatorial Practices and a MES (Masters of Environmental Studies) in Community Art Practice and Storytelling with a certificate of Environmental Education from York University. Catherine has curated a number of art exhibits and community projects including University Settlement 100th Year Anniversary. She was an art educator and the lead facilitator for the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Arts Access Program and a Program Officer for Montgomery’s Inn Museum.

Carolyn Taylor is a Project Manager with StreetARToronto (StART). 1986 she launched ArtsWeek for the then Arts Foundation of Greater Toronto, followed by The Word On the Street Book and Magazine Festival in 1990, which grew to 5 cities across Canada during her tenure. After cycling across Canada, she project managed Toronto’s 2008 Olympic Bid Arts & Culture Committee, which lead to her next start-up – a pilot project for an ’08 Bid legacy called World Youth Centre. In and around this work she has produced concerts, galas and festivals for the culture and heritage sector, national recognition programs for emerging entrepreneurs, large-scale youth gatherings, an youth education program rooted in Olympic values and has participated on numerous boards of small to mid-sized culture and social-change organizations.

Session – Mentorship and Legacy- From Garage Doors to International Walls

This presentation will look at the ways in which StART’s suite of programs and workshops combine to provide a skills development ladder that, together with StART’s online platforms and activities, showcase local artists, mentor emerging talent and seek to support Toronto artists in developing their careers while at the same time foster a sense of belonging for residents and achieve multiple city building objectives set by Toronto Council.

Thank you to our funders


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