Eastwood Community League has grown even more vibrant after the unveiling of a mosaic on Aug. 5.
The artwork, entitled “Flowers of Eastwood”, features blooms, butterflies, and buzzing bees. “We wanted a piece that was inclusive [and] didn’t highlight any one culture or ethnical background,” says Donna Yateman, league president. The result is a fantastic piece of art that everyone can enjoy.
The primary goal of the project was to brighten up the rear side of the hall. “We often get a lot of graffiti back there and a lot of unwanted traffic, so we’re trying to change the dynamic back there,” explains Yateman. “We’re trying to brighten things up and bring some new life.”
The project has been in the works for about two-and-half years, and the committee (Kate Wilson, Christy Morin, and Donna Yateman) is thrilled that the mural is completed and ready for the community to enjoy. “There are always a ton of families back there and kids at the splash pad,” says Yateman. “We just really wanted something beautiful for them.”
The mural, which took about four months to complete, is created entirely from drawings from community members, but it is depicted in glass and porcelain instead of crayon and marker. Theodora Harasymiw, the mural artist, compiled the community drawings and arranged them into a cohesive image. Harasymiw traced the drawings and projected them onto the mosaic board so the art could stay as true to the community drawings as possible.
Harasymiw has worked on large scale public artwork for 25 years, and she has over 95 murals scattered across Edmonton. “My work is about collaborating with community,” explains Harasymiw.
Christy Morin, executive director of Arts on the Ave (AOTA), says, “This is just a small little indicator of what’s to come… This is just the edge of a beautiful legacy that [will] start unfolding at Eastwood.”
Morin and her husband moved into Eastwood as newlyweds and have lived in the community for nearly 30 years. “We went out for a romantic picnic in Eastwood Park [as newlyweds], and were quickly sobered by the incredible spirit of sadness and violence, and a neighbourhood that was truly run by the effects of drugs.”
Eastwood Park used to be very unsafe. There was glass in the sand, needles left behind, and it was easy to commit crimes or participate in illicit activity behind the large hill in the park. “After a while it became so tiring cleaning all the time that we would actually not even go to Eastwood Park anymore,” says Morin. “It was too disheartening and just was very, very unsafe.”
Today, the park is family-friendly and a beautiful space for the community to come together. The playground and splash pad in the park are what Morin always dreamed her children would be able to use, and she says “being able to see other children for the past decade being able to play in that park and find solace and joy and memories is really wonderful to be a part of.”
City Coun. Tony Caterina says, “[I] can’t even describe it, how much the improvement [in the neighbourhood] has been. The board at Eastwood with Donna [Yateman] has made all the difference in the world.” Caterina notes that “it’s been a group effort by virtually everybody: the businesses, community leagues, the art community. They’ve all worked on this for years… We’ve a little ways to go yet, and I know that with this perfect little group of community, they’ll continue working at it.”
“It’s a really neat example of community art. It really transformed our neighbourhoods,” says Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood. “I will say that it’s a small thing but it’s something that people will notice, and I would encourage everybody in our local neighbourhoods to come down to the spray park and check out the beautiful mural that was designed for us.”
Nicole Goehring, MLA for Edmonton-Castle Downs, adds, “It’s projects like this that bring community together. When you have art, it makes it more accessible, it makes it feel safer, and it just brings people together.”
“Art is a universal language that people can come and enjoy,” Goehring continues. “It’s so beautiful that it’s brought here in this park where children play because they get to experience it and love it.”
Morin explains that while she was initially wary of the dandelion on the mural, she thinks it perfectly represents the neighbourhood: how the tireless work and revitalization efforts will continue to be seeded for many years to come. Seeing the mural unveiling on Aug. 5 was a huge demonstration of community joy, says Morin, and it “[showed] the evidence of the work of many, many boards gone by at Eastwood and so much care of what’s going to make a difference. It is finally taking root.”