Four exceptional artists collaborated to create a new mural for the Downtown Eastside
On April 28, 2010, at a press conference in which Reverend Ric Matthews announced plans to build a $31 million home for the homeless on the First United Church site at Gore and Hastings Street in Vancouver, the city was presented with a one-of-a-kind mural located at 55-57 W. Hastings Street. It is the collaborative work of four world-renowned aerosol artists: Faith47 from South Africa, Titi Freak from Sao Paulo, Peeta from Italy, and Indigo who is a local artist and dancer based in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side. These four artists were invited by the United Church of Canada to paint their interpretation of faith, as part of the church’s ongoing “Paint Your Faith” campaign. See www.paintyourfaith.com or www.wondercafe.ca.
"Paint Your Faith is an opportunity for conversations about our values, our experience of spirituality, and the meaning of faith," said Keith Howard, executive director of the United Church's Emerging Spirit program.
Sandra Severs of First United said that this mural proclaims hope in this neighbourhood that people call "home”. She went on to say that the mural is a gift of the United Church of Canada to the City of Vancouver and also a gift of the four artists to the residents of the Downtown Eastside. Sandra expressed her hope that the mural would lighten the hearts of those who walk by and create opportunities for conversations. She told how the mural painting had engaged the neighbourhood. People came by to clean up the site, plant flowers, play music and have conversation.
Indigo was raised in Northern BC & is currently based in the DTES
Indigo’s artwork on the mural consists of a series of transformations. She told me her work signifies that everything goes together as energy that never ends because there are no endings in human life. We transform from one thing to the other, riding life’s ups and downs. Her artwork starts with a girl blowing dandelion seeds. The dandelion’s seeds, which will turn into new flowers, transform into the autumn leaves flowing over Faith’s work (last photo). These leaves symbolize the ending of summer which is needed to get to the next year. In Indigo's work, the leaves next transform into Hastings Street pigeons which then transform into two women symbolizing the dandelion girl grown into a woman. When I asked her how transformation related to faith, she said faith is bigger than religion and organizations. It is the process of getting through life and what we hold on to so we get through the ups and downs. Indigo said she knows one thing always leads to the next through change and transformation. That means growing and becoming stronger as a person.
Now based in Vancouver, Peeta honed his craft in the streets of Padova & Mestre
Peeta painted pine cones spreading out white light. He chose the pine cones because they symbolize the pineal gland in many cultures. This gland is our connection to the spiritual world. It is also our mind’s eye that visualizes dreams and our imagination that creates our future. Imagination is the language for our prayers. The spreading white light symbolizes higher-level spirituality like the white light surrounding Jesus’ head so it connects traditional religion and New Age spirituality. When I asked Peeta what faith meant to him, he said that as a kid he believed in Jesus, religion and going to church but he found that faith is the evidence of things not seen. Faith is a tool to shape our future experiences guided by our meditations and prayers. We are faithful in our ability to shape our own future. If we visualize it and believe, we create it as our experience.
Titi Freak was born in Brazil & is also influenced by his Japanese heritage
Titi said that when you believe in something, faith is pursuing that vision. Faith is also about believing in himself to do what he wishes in realizing his goals and dreams. He went on to say that his mural piece represented his “big loves”: the word of God, his family and his art. The colourful mosaic of people and their homes represents multiculturalism. The clouds represent the spirit in the sky. He said that he believes spirituality and faith is through the people.
Cape Town-based artist Faith47’s work
The center piece of this 13' x 130' wall mural is Faith’s work. Her feeling is that no matter who you are and what you have done, the one sure thing is we all pass away and everything turns to dust. She lives in a South African city with her little boy of eleven. She has seen a lot of negative things and, for her, religion is not a priority. Faith is not religious and she is a little spiritual. She lives and works through her art.
When I spoke with Alan Serpa, who is making a documentary on the “Paint Your Faith” mural project, he agreed that this project was about bringing a diversity of people and their unique experiences into the center of the story of what faith and spirituality mean.