20th National Mural Symposium Program

November 15 – 18, 2021 – Online

Monday, Nov 15th 12:30 – 1:00pmOfficial remarks + Land Acknowledgement
Monday, Nov 15th 1:00 – 2:30pmKeynote Speaker – Phil Cote
Co-presented with YYZ Artists’ Outlet
Tuesday, Nov 16th 1:00 – 2:30pmMore info to come
Tuesday, Nov 16th 5:00 – 7:00pmWorkshop – Building strength, capacity and community
for emerging women+ and non-binary artists
Wednesday, Nov 17th 1:00 – 2:00pmMore info to come
Wednesday, Nov 17th 5:00 – 6:30pmPanel discussion – Let’s Talk Art: Culturally Diverse Aesthetics in mural art
Co-presented with Neighbourhood Arts Network
Supported by RBC
Thursday, Nov 18th 1:00 – 6:30pmMore info to come
Thursday, Nov 18th 5:00 – 6:00pmBLANKETING THE CITY IV: CATHEDRAL SQUARE.
A Mural Series Celebrating Coast Salish Weaving
Thursday, Nov 18th 6:00-6:15pmClosing remarks

Please note – all times listed are Eastern Standard time

Speaker Bios & Session Descriptions

Paths to Creation; From the Revival of our Oral Stories to Street Art for the Eighth Fire Generation

Session type: Keynote address

Renowned Indigenous artist Phil Cote will speak about his mural practice and the themes incorporated throughout his mural art. Cote will discuss the importance of sharing Indigenous teachings with a wider audience as well as utilizing mural art as a way to reclaim spaces, land, time, and history – through a selection of mural projects, some of which are collaborations with non-Indigenous artists.

Phil Cote
Anishinaabe-izhini-kaaz-o-win Nodj-mowin-Miskogayaashk Gichi-manidoo-anishinaabe indoodem Mishu-pishu niin Anishinaabe, Shawnee, Lakota, Potawatomi, Ojibway, Algonquin Min-a-waa Mohawk. Philip Cote, MFA, Moose Deer Point First Nation, is a Young Spiritual Elder, Indigenous artist, activist, educator, historian, and Ancestral Knowledge Keeper. He is engaged in creating opportunities for artmaking and teaching methodologies through Indigenous symbolism, traditional ceremonies, history, oral stories, and land-based pedagogy. Citing all of his ancestry, he is Shawnee, Lakota, Potawatomi, Ojibway, Algonquin, and Mohawk. Philip is the seventh generation great-grandson of Shawnee Warrior and Leader Tecumseh, and his ancestor Amelia Chechok is the granddaughter of Chechok who was the first signer of the Toronto Purchase of 1805.

Keynote Speaker Co-presented with YYZ Artists’ Outlet

*Please note – the following session has limited capacity and requires pre-registration in order to attend.

Building strength, capacity and community for emerging women+ and non-binary artists

Session type: Workshop

An opportunity for up to 8 women+ and non-binary folks to share their artistic journey and receive feedback on an active design, professional presentation or project they’re dreaming up. This session is an intimate discussion aimed at providing guidance and fostering mentorship amongst emerging visual artists. It is an opportunity for historically excluded voices to gain feedback and knowledge, specifically around their projects, body of work, and artist trajectory.

Registration required – Workshop facilitators will get in touch with participants prior to the session.

Bareket Kezwer
Bareket is a Toronto based muralist, community engaged artist and facilitator, curator, cultural producer, graphic designer, frequent collaborator and eternal optimist.

Her multidisciplinary practice is motivated by a desire to spread joy, cultivate gratitude, celebrate the power of kindness and compassion, and support the growth of inclusive and connected communities. She programs and facilitates projects that enable people to express themselves through creative engagement and increase representation of Toronto’s diverse population. In her murals, she works with bright colours and bold patterns to captivate people’s attention and fill them with delight.

In 2017, she founded Women Paint, a street art jam celebrating the strength, resilience and diverse stories of women and non-binary artist and community members. As the initiative’s creative director, she has produced 80 murals by emerging and early career artists, and facilitated intergenerational community murals and mural camps with youth.

Shafia Shaikh
Shafia (she/her) is a community artist whose work encompasses equity-based public art projects, installations, youth workshops and street art. She does this work under the name The E.W.o.C. Project (Equity for Women of Colour), an initiative committed to expanding representation and creating opportunities for women of colour in the arts. The project places a focus on activism for under-represented communities, often involving community engagement and sharing authentic stories through accessible art.

Let’s Talk Art: Culturally Diverse Aesthetics in mural art

Session type: Panel discussion

Moderator: To be confirmed

In this session, multidisciplinary artists Poonam Sharma, Aitak Sorahitalab, and Kseniya Tsoy will present about their artistic (and mural) practice, influenced by the cultural aesthetics of their home countries. The artists will discuss their experiences as immigrant women producing mural art, the barriers faced, as well as the change needed in order to build more spaces for diverse aesthetics in public art.

Poonam Sharma
Poonam is a contemporary visual artist & muralist. She grew up in India, where she learnt various folk & tribal art forms and explored contemporary styles in Canada through various community art projects. In her murals, she blends various art forms to create a unique expression and enhance the significance of art forms passed through several generations.

Kseniya Tsoy
Kseniya is a new Canadian community-engaged artist originally from Uzbekistan. Whether it’s community murals, illustration, or cultural production, her work has a distinct social purpose and focuses on diversity and inclusion. As a visual artist, her works are inspired by folk motifs and legends of different cultures that influenced her throughout her life. For her as a person of mixed heritage, it is a visual expression of her never-ending exploration of identity and belonging.

Aitak Sorahitalab
Aitak is a contemporary ceramic artist and art educator with more than a decade of experience in both fields. As a creative, she narrates life stories, social issues and political concerns in her ceramic sculptures and installations using the elements of Iranian and Mesopotamian art, culture and history. Aitak worked with diverse art organizations as an art instructor, programmer, jury and committee member in Tehran (Iran) and Toronto. Some of her classes include art initiatives for newcomers and refugees, special needs children and adults. Passionate about social development, Aitak has co-founded a non-profit organization, Airsa, to help and support new Canadians in the arts in Toronto.

Neightbourhood Arts Network


Supported by:


To learn more about RBC Newcomer Spotlight Program visit NeighbourhoodArtsNetwork.org

BLANKETING THE CITY IV: CATHEDRAL SQUARE. A Mural Series Celebrating Coast Salish Weaving

Session type: Project Presentation

Blanketing The City (2018-2021) is a public art mural series and Reconciliation process designed by acclaimed xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Weaver and Graphic Designer, Debra Sparrow in collaboration with Vancouver Mural Festival. The series boldly affirms the resurgence and importance of Coast Salish weaving on these lands, and directly combats the ongoing systemic suppression of Indigenous visual culture. Debra Sparrow has invited master weavers Chief Janice George (Sḵwxwú7mesh) and Angela George (səlilwətaɬ) to collaborate on the design of 7 landmark murals blanketing Cathedral Square Park. Blanketing The City IV: Cathedral Square boldly transmits and magnifies the visibility of xwməθkwəyə̓m, Sḵwxwú7mesh and səlilwətaɬ culture on their ancestral lands. This project is a deep exploration and implementation of Indigenous visibility in public spaces via a multi-year collaboration between these weavers. Blanketing The City IV: Cathedral Square, will be the first semi permanent public art collaboration between weavers from the three local nations.

Debra Sparrow
“Everything I do is a reflection of my people. The ancestors speak to me through this creative gift. I, in turn, share it with you and others who take the time to stop and ask the questions – Reflections, traditional designs, contemporary colors…” – Debra Sparrow

Debra is a self-taught Musqueam designer who was born and raised on the Musqueam Indian Reserve. Debra is an acclaimed weaver who has been weaving for twenty years and is deeply involved with the revival of Musqueam weaving. She integrates her peoples’ history into her art and design work which can be seen in various museums and institutions, such as the Vancouver Airport. It is Debra’s hope to educate others about the beauty and integrity of her people’s history through her art.

Debra’s weavings are currently featured at the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) in the exhibit: Fabric of Our Land. She is heavily involved in the coordination of the delivery of programing and live-weaving workshops at MOA. She also continues to work on pieces close to her heart at her home in Musqueam. It is Debra’s hope to educate others about the beauty and integrity of her people’s history through her art.

Debra Sparrow has been involved in the revival of Musqueam weaving for the past 20 years. Her art and design work has been featured in various museums and institutions around British Columbia. She currently has weavings that are featured on display Museum of Anthropology as a part of the exhibit ‘Fabric of our Land.’ Debra’s weaving works, which she often creates with her sister, are also on display at the Vancouver International Airport in the Musqueam Welcome Area of the International arrivals. In 2009, Debra Sparrow was commissioned to create a piece for the First Nations Gallery at the Government House in Victoria, BC. For this comission Debra created a ceremonial blanket and shawl. Debra was actively involved in the creation and design of a logo for the Canadian Hockey Teams for the 2010 Olympics. In addition to this, Debra and her sister created two weavings, ‘Thunderbirds: Keepers of the Sky’ for the Olympic Games, which are permanently located in the UBC Thunderbird Arena. Debra als received the BC Creative Achievement Award for First Nations’ Art in 2008.

Adrian Sinclair, Director of Engagement
Adrian Sinclair was born on Treaty 1 territory, the traditional home of the Anishinaabe, (Ojibway), Ininew (Cree), Oji-Cree, Dene, and Dakota, and is the Birthplace of the Métis Nation (Winnipeg Manitoba). He is Northern Scottish on his father’s side and Ukrainian Mennonite on his mothers side. He is co-founder and Director of Engagement at the Vancouver Mural Festival (VMF) where he develops community-engaged public art and culture projects that aim to build a more equitable, just and inclusive city. Adrian is driven to support the production of public art and programming that weave together artistic expression, empowerment, criticality and celebration. At VMF, he has supported and co-created programming and public art with artists, community leaders and organizations like Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Nation, The Chinatown Foundation, Centre for Comparative Muslim Studies, Overdose Precention Society, Culture Saves Lives, BC Hydro, BC Housing, ECUAD, MOV, MOA, and The Indian Summer Festival. He is on the board of directors of The BC Mobile Sauna Society and Vancouver Art House Society. Adrian completed his MA in Philosophy, specializing in Queer Theory and Phenomenology at The University of Western Ontario.

The 20th National Mural Symposium is sponsored by:


Community partners: