23-storey mural transforms downtown student residence

A 23-storey mural, set to be completed July 19, has transformed the side of a student residence at Jarvis and Carlton streets.

Okuda San Miguel created installation at Jarvis and Carlton streets

Spanish street artist Okuda San Miguel arrived in Toronto last Thursday to help create a towering mural on the side of a downtown student residence. (Jon Castell/CBC)

It will be hard to miss Toronto's newest art installation — a 23-storey culturally themed mural created by renowned Spanish street artist Okuda San Miguel.

San Miguel teamed up with four Toronto artists to create the mural, located on the east side of the Parkside Student Residence at Jarvis and Carlton streets, near Ryerson University. 

"Some people that live around [the area] congratulate me because the change in a positive way, more happy place and you can imagine hope," Miguel said. "A place [can] change with just one piece of art."

The project began June 19 and incorporated community painting days, although San Miguel arrived for his two-week stay just last Thursday to paint the intricate "figurative elements" of the mural.

Known for his contemporary street art featured in Europe, Asia, South America, Africa and the U.S., San Miguel was selected by the city to be the lead artist for this mural. (Jon Castell/CBC)
 

Officially, the installation is expected to be complete by July 19, and will be seen by about 100,000 commuters and local residents daily.

'Different people can view it' 

San Miguel spoke of the importance of street art because of its ability to reach the masses, free of charge.

A 23-storey mural, set to be completed by July 19, has transformed the side of a student residence at Jarvis and Carlton streets. 0:42

"A lot of people can talk about your art," he said. "Different people can view it."

Despite being known for his surrealist multi-coloured paintings that have popped up in public spaces across Europe, Africa, South America, Asia and the United States, this is San Miguel's first work featured in Toronto and his tallest piece to date.

He was selected from a short list of top street artists from around the world to "push aesthetic boundaries," as well as enhance the "vibrancy of the neighbourhood," according to a press release from Knightstone Capital Management Inc., owner of Parkside Student Residence.   

Miguel's work is also being featured at the #Hashtag Gallery exhibit "Horses & Muses", which runs until July 29. (Streetartbio.com)
 

The whole project was organized by The STEPS Initiative, a public arts charity that aims to decrease vandalism and increase beauty among Toronto's neighbourhoods, and the City of Toronto's StreetARToronto program that promotes community engagement.

The mural will explore themes of nature and diversity, innate to the community. 

Miguel said he and the other painters must wait until late afternoon to start painting because of the intense heat. (Jon Castell/CBC)
 

With files from Chris Glover