Imagine standing on a street corner in a Canadian city in the middle of February, and every wall that surrounds you is covered in a bright, colourful painting. Vibrant images reflect our diverse culture and relationships with nature. Imagine walking past these illustrations every morning as you start your day. You probably wouldn't care as much that the wind is whipping at your cheeks, or that the ground is covered in brown slush, because you would always be looking up, anticipating more colour as you go.
You will find murals in other cities - and some are celebrating the muralism movement with events. The Vancouver Mural Festival happened this past August and brought together 35 new murals, 20 artists and plenty of music and local business to celebrate. Waterloo Region's own Cambridge International Street Art Festival happens in August as well.
In the US, Philadelphia has implemented a city-wide mural program, supported by a network of artists and volunteers, to beautify its downtown core. Detroit artists are using all forms of public art, including murals, to engage community members in the city's revitalization.
But there is also something just a little different bubbling in Waterloo Region. In a tiny creative studio, in a former Kitchener factory space, visual artist Pamela Rojas is surrounded by colourful canvases large and small, sculptures and other creations in preparation for her next exhibit. What you cannot see are the murals that she has created around the community, although if you look hard enough, there are small-scale models and sketches for some. The stories behind these murals demonstrate a new level of artistic civic engagement and have sparked the creation of the Pomegranate Mural Collective. More about that later.
Rojas grew up in Santiago, Chile where people, politics and murals intertwined to reflect the stories of Santiago's history, turmoil and celebration. In Chile, participating in mural painting equates to civic engagement. As a young adult, Rojas moved to Spain and studied at the prestigious Delia Robbia in Seville, specializing in sculpture and ceramics. Later in 1996, she worked in Seville as an assistant to muralist Ximena Ahumada de Avila, also originally from Chile.
Ahumada shared stories of times when political turmoil would spark mural collectives to form and take action. Rojas recounts, "She had to paint in the night, clandestinely. She would have one part of the mural to do. They had an organized...