The storied El Mocambo bar and music venue is scheduled to reopen Oct. 30 after a long closure — demonstrating the resilience of local businesses and communities, as celebrated in a new set of murals gracing the laneway, the city says.
The project was launched Oct. 18, featuring 24 murals painted by 25 street, mural and graffiti artists, many of whom have already been painting murals in the laneway for years, according to a city news release.
The new works are themed “Grit” to represent the area surviving and bouncing back after the ongoing pandemic.
“The Grit laneway project celebrates the courage, strength and unique character of the local residents and businesses of Kensington Market and Chinatown, and showcases the legendary El Mocambo,” said University-Rosedale councillor Mike Layton in the release.
“These communities have endured in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and I would like to thank the organizations and businesses that came together to bring this mural series to reality,” he said.
The murals are in the laneway, informally styled El Mocambo Lane, running behind the club at 464 Spadina Ave. and other businesses.
It’s a project is presented in partnership with the city’s StreetARToronto program, local businesses including El Mocambo, Gwartzman’s Art Supplies, and the Chinatown Business Improvement Area.
Artists were allowed to interpret the theme as they saw fit but were challenged to use a sandpaper grit colour palette to link their artworks with each other.
The El Mocambo has been mostly closed since 2014 for renovations.
Margaret Trudeau and the Rolling Stones
Before that, of course, it was known as one of Toronto’s prime music venues for both local bar bands and internationally famous groups that wanted to revisit their small-venue roots in intimate settings. The Rolling Stones, the Police, U2 and Elvis Costello all played gigs at the club.
The most infamous event may have occurred there in 1979 when Margaret Trudeau made her marital split with Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau public by cavorting with the Rolling Stones at the El Mocambo.
The mural project is one of the many launch-events leading up to the venue’s grand reopening at the end of October.
“The El Mocambo, the surrounding neighbourhood and stunning murals all showcase and celebrate the amazing creative and diverse talent in Toronto,” said El Mocambo owner Michael Wekerle.
“It is indeed the people that are the heart of our community and we are happy to celebrate their courage and strength with the Grit laneway project.”
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