American artist Nina Chanel Abney and Toronto curator Ashley McKenzie-Barnes are set to unveil a new 120-foot mural on Bellair St. in the Yorkville area Wednesday morning. With both women identifying as black queer females, the mural explores themes of social justice, humanity and spreading love, not hate.
Coinciding with the beginning of Pride Month in June, the mural incorporates words and phrases like “love,” “stop” and “don’t kill” in acknowledgement of the acts of hatred and racism happening at home and around the world. The artists hope the street art gives passersby pause and a chance to reflect on the racial, cultural and gender-based violence occurring regularly on a global scale, and how people can come together to overcome these acts of hate.
Titled “Generally Speaking,” the mural is also designed to engender hope and joy in the Yorkville community as the city works towards recovering from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It seeks to remind people of the need for social justice and reform in all areas, while highlighting themes of alliance, humanity and togetherness.
With the aim of uniting the community and sparking thoughtful contemplation through art, the mural is located close to Pink Tartan and Café Nervosa near Yorkville Ave., and will serve as a welcome addition to the streetscape. Combining bright colours like pink, green and blue with abstract geometrical shapes, the artwork draws the eye and sparks the imagination upon first glance.
Abney’s past works touch on a broad range of topics including race, celebrity, religion, sex and politics. Hailing from Chicago originally and now living in New York, her work is featured in collections around the world including the Brooklyn Museum and Hong Kong’s Burger Collection.
McKenzie-Barnes has worked in Toronto as a creative director and design lead for upwards of a decade, conceptualizing and executing multiplatform campaigns for major brands. Most recently, she worked with musician Lauryn Hill on her new fashion collection celebrating the 20-year anniversary of her album the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
The mural on Bellair St. is a partnership with Yorkville Murals, and ArtworxTO: Toronto’s Year of Public Art 2021–2022, a year-long celebration of Toronto’s exceptional public art collection and the artists behind it.