New 150-foot mural coming to downtown Kitchener in July

Neruda Arts is putting up a 150-foot mural on Charles Street in Kitchener next month, but it isn't being called a celebration for Canada's 150th to respect Indigenous communities' wishes.

Despite timing, mural not part of Canada 150th celebrations, organizer says

Artists work on the mural indoors at the Granite Club in Waterloo. The mural will be installed on Charles Street in downtown Kitchener in July. (Isabel Cisterna)

A new 150-foot mural set to go up on Charles Street in Kitchener next month is not part of the Canada 150 celebrations, the group organizing the art project says.

Neruda Arts received $25,000 from the Canada 150 Fund for the mural, but the group's artistic director Isabel Cisterna said after consulting with local groups, the plan for the project changed.

"It was more going to be more about the contributions of multicultural communities than anything else," Cisterna said of the original plan for the mural.

"But when we started to do our consultation, we realized that there was a very important piece that was missing in this narrative."

The public is invited to help paint the mural this weekend for a June 15 deadline. Cisterna said children are welcome. (Isabel Cisterna)

Including Indigenous voices

Neruda Arts consulted with the Aboriginal Education Centre at the University of Waterloo and the Aboriginal Student Centre at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Chelsea Powless, a third year Wilfrid Laurier University student who is from Six Nations, was at the consultation.

"All the Indigenous people in there unanimously agreed on the fact that we aren't celebrating Canada 150," she said.

Powless said Neruda Arts and the artists understood the group's stance and respected their wishes.

"The mural was more supposed to be used as a tool to let us to celebrate Indigenous resilience, and that connection that Indigenous people have to the earth that should be respected, especially on the territory we're on now," she said.

Seven professional artists are leading the design and the painting of this mural. Two of them are from Chile and the other five are local to the Waterloo Region. (Isabel Cisterna)

Accurate representation

Students, staff and other community members at the consultation gave suggestions for mural designs.

Powless said someone suggested including bundles and rocks to be part of the mural. Bundles can be physical or metaphorical.

"One of the things that they were saying they keep in their bundle is a rock, which grounds them to the earth," she said.

Cisterna said they want the mural to accurately reflect Indigenous communities.

"What they are worried about, with great concern, is that they are made into a cartoon character," she said.

The mural will showcase the journey that led to the upcoming Canada Day, including the time before 1867.

"We're not defying the celebration. What we're doing is just changing a little bit the way we look at the celebration," Cisterna said.

Seven professional artists, with two from Chile, are designing the mural after consultations with the community.

Neruda Arts is inviting the public to help paint the mural indoors this Saturday and Sunday at Granite Club in Waterloo.

You can register for free on the Neruda Arts website. Cisterna said children are also welcome to join.

The finished mural will be mounted on Charles Street between Cedar Street and Stirling Avenue next month.


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