You may have noticed that Wilson Station looks a little different this Fall season. As part of the Year of Public Art 2021-2022, our office has partnered with STEPS Public Art, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and StreetARToronto to transform Wilson Station. Completed in October 2021, Daily Migration is a new 1,400 sq ft. mural created by internationally-recognized artist, Shalak Attack. The new public art injects vibrancy and colour into the lives of over 17,000 daily visitors.
“Public art is a cultural bridge between our diverse communities, and the Year of Public Art is an opportune time to showcase local talent, tell unique stories and transform our public spaces,” shares Councillor James Pasternak (Ward 6 – York Centre – Downsview).
There are three publicly accessible murals at Wilson Station illustrating the theme of migration with the elements of water, fire, earth and air. These elements were inspired by the feedback provided from the community through a series of public consultations in 2020 and 2021.
The first mural is located on the South-West entrance of Wilson Station’s tunnel under the Allen Road. This work consists of the theme of Air and Earth, artist Shalak Attack explains in her Instagram post: “Commemorating the experience that home is where the heart is, we create our home through family, friends, community building, no matter where we end up on Earth, our home is nesting inside ready to hatch when tended and cared for. Earth is our Home in the larger scope and we are guided down our path by our inner compass. The snowy Owl is the only migrating owl, here her eyes serve as a protector on our paths we take. Reflecting in her eyes are the faces of a child and elder reminding us as well of the importance of inter generational connections in terms of sharing knowledge and bonds!”
Upon entering the tunnel, the visitor is greeted by a mural titled “Taking Flight” on their right, displaying a boy looking through a telescope at a colourful bird, the Bar Tailed Godwit. Shalak Attack explains, “This bird flies towards land where we find medicinal plants and flowers depicted In honour of Healing and the incredible health care workers that have worked so hard and courageously especially during these past two years, most of which are immigrants themselves. These plants and the textile patterns on the bird, wings and the young boys shirt are also in homage to the multicultural backgrounds present in the neighbourhood, especially honouring the Filipino, African, and Eastern European migrants ever so present in this community.”
As the visitor continues walking east, they are greeted by a Humpback whale carrying a ship of migrants through the vast ocean, illuminated by a lighthouse. The elements of this mural are water and fire. This work touches upon the ecological and humanitarian issues of the world. Shalak Attack delves into this on their social media post: “A majestic Humpback whale swims where the ocean and the sky meet to greet dawns early morning glow. She is also a migrant, travelling great distances every year and has one of the longest migrations of any mammal on the planet. She is currently an endangered species threatened by entanglement in fishing gear, Vessel strikes, Vessel-based harassment, and Ocean noise. In this mural she is guiding the ship that represents so many stories of migrants and refugees. Her fin morphs into a guardian spirit watching and guiding from below. […] There are currently more than 80 million displaced people around the globe, of those, 30-34 million are children. This means that one in every 97 people in the world is now forcibly displaced. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the situation has become even more dire,” Shalak Attack writes.
Upon reaching the end of the tunnel, the visitor will come across a lighthouse towering over a hill and shining a beacon of light. The beacon signals a warm welcome to the migrants and an end to the visitor’s journey.