BY TONY WANLESS
Anyone who walks, bikes or drives regularly near the transit line on Vanness Avenue in Collingwood East of Rupert Street and toward the Joyce-Collingwood Skytrain station is familiar with the dreary and uninspiring cement wall that extends along the south side of the street beside the transit tracks.
For a long time the dispiriting, 26-metre-long wall had been a neglected, colourless strip of banality. Over time, the wall became covered with graffiti.
Today, there is a wildly colourful mural extending along the whole length of the wall. A brightly painted kaleidoscope of swirls and drawings and affirmative words, the Collingwood Wall embraces the neighbourhood with its multicoloured hues and swirls and whirls and drawings.
In the process, it also provides passersby with a tableau of the area’s history, from its beginnings as a wilderness with rivers teeming with salmon and other fish, of Indigenous people’s lives and of the migrations of people from around the world who now make Collingwood the varied, multicultural neighbourhood it is.
In a sense, it is a 26-metre story about how we came to be. These depictions of history and historical life enliven the entire street and SkyTrain track – passengers commuting to or from the suburbs are inevitably drawn to train windows as the riot of colours flash by – and refreshes the views so much that walkers often stop in their tracks so they can study the mural more closely.
Designed by noted Filipino, and, of late, Vancouver, muralist Norberto “Bert” Monterona, the mural was painted over the summer by members of the Collingwood Neighbourhood House (CNH) youth group.
It wasn’t an easy task.
At first, the wall had to be repainted a basic white to cover over the grafitti that marred its entire length. Then outlines of the myriad forms and scenes in the mural – Monterona’s designs are known for their intricate, almost abstract, forms that often tell stories about the people who live there – had to be carefully outlined.
This outlining took some time, and for several weeks, passersby would stop and study it all, twisting their necks as they clearly tried to make out what was going on with “that wall.”
Now they know. It’s a storyboard about where they live, a pictoral history of what the area once was, now is and what it is rapidly becoming – a rapid-growing, vibrant neighbourhood that often has the feeling of a small town but is, in fact, becoming a modern-city multicultural centre.
Copyright (c) 2017 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News