Most people here agreed: the stretch of Bathurst Street just south of Lawrence could use a little love.
Now, following an injection of city cash earmarked for neighbourhood beautification, the strip just got some.
The love in this case comes in the form of a new block-long tiled mosaic on the west side of Bathurst between Fairholme and Dell Park Avenues. The unveiling of the piece was celebrated with an event on Aug. 15.
“We had a band and everyone had coffee and cake,” said local councillor Howard Moscoe.
Moscoe spearheaded the creation of the knee-to-waist-high mosaic last year at a film festival held at the Barbara Frum Library.
“We showed several animated, Jewish-themed films, then the audience picked the film they’d like to see illustrated in the mural,” Moscoe recounted.
The community chose Almonds and Wine, created by Babar animator Arnie Lipsey in 1999. The film, inspired by a Klezmer (a form of popular Yiddish folk music) song, tells the story of a young couple’s marriage, struggles and eventual emigration to North America from war-torn Europe.
The film was also the favourite of Cristina Delago, a mosaic artist who was invited to attend the festival along with a few others who would be competing for the mural contract. Delago, who was brought in by the non-profit group Mural Routes, usually makes her living teaching under-privileged youth the art of making mosaics and has previously done public work in at-risk communities.
Delago eventually won the contract and set to work with the film’s animator.
“I had basically two weeks to come up with the concept,” she said.
After taping a few paper mock-up versions to the wall here, the project was green lit and Delago set to work.
The mosaic was built in panels and took five months to complete. During that time, Delago worked studiously to do something she’d never done before: take what was a song, then a film, and translate it to a mosaic.
“It was a bit of a challenge to be able to get the essence of that movie into a mosaic,” said Delago, who moved to Italy from Canada in her early 20s and attended the Ontario College of Art.
In translating that essence, Delago and Lipsey sat down and chose about 80 frames from the film and arranged them sequentially.
“Walking from the south end, it starts with the clouds and the titles, and then the beginning of the movie and you can start to see the story,” said Delago, who added that she’s pleased with the results.
“I was kind of holding back until I saw everybody else’s reaction, especially Arnie,” who she said gave his stamp of approval.
And so did the community.
Spirits were high at the event, which featured klezmer band the Shpeelers and a screening of the film version of Almonds and Wine at the Europe Bar and Restaurant.
“It was a good reaction. Everyone was just so happy that finally someone’s doing something in this neighbourhood to make it more beautiful,” Delago said.
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