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Location of diversity mural still up for consideration

Council last week considered the final location of the Diversity Mural. Going into the meeting, lawmakers were faced with a recommendation to sign off on the building at the southwest corner of Yonge and Wellington as the final location for art celebrating the community’s diversity, but concerns over the number of windows boasted by the wall in question, as well as some Councillors feeling left out of the process, resulted in a decision to allow interested artists to make their pitch on any of four mural locations shortlisted by staff.

These potential locations, in addition to Yonge and Wellington, include a wall of a professional office building just south of the intersection that is most prominently the offices of realtor Lenard Lind, a north-facing wall of the Aurora Public Library, and a retaining wall near Hartwell Way.

“I do think there is some discussion that has to be had on these locations before jumping into it,” said Councillor Rachel Gilliland, who has been a critic of the process. “The perfect spot is there [but] I just don’t know if it is the one that has been pre-selected as it is.”

Similar views were offered by Councillor John Gallo, another Council member who has criticized the process, who said he felt the mural was being rushed.

“These types of things take time, effort and thought and they don’t go away,” he said, noting his preference to hold off on a final decision until the drafting of a Town-wide public art policy is developed. “I feel like we’re putting the cart before the horse. We’re developing a policy that would dictate how these things are executed: criteria on selection, a site that is going to remain for a long time, perhaps a municipal site, something that is not going to be potentially redeveloped. I don’t think we can say that for the site that staff is recommending. I support the initiative but I support doing it right.”

While Councillor Wendy Gartner said the Diversity Mural “needed to be done,” she had reservations about the site preferred by staff.

“There are way too many windows on that other location; it would be just too hard to work with,” she said, conceding that Yonge and Wellington is “the best location.”

“This needs to be great and it needs to last for a long time,” she said. “We need to get it right the first time. It’s not trying to put aside or not honour the subject matter. It’s just that it’s such an important subject matter…it needs to be as perfect as it can be.”

A motion to let interested artists decide which “canvas” they want as part of their vision was put forward by Councillor Michael Thompson. All four spaces, he said, are different shapes and sizes “and would lend themselves to a different end product to some degree.”

The Diversity Mural project is being led by Phil Rose, who also serves as Project Manager for the Library Square development. He said it would not be a problem to let the artists make pitches on the locations of their choice and could spur a “conversation” in the artistic community.

“Perhaps this is a way for all members of Council to get behind and support it,” said Councillor Thompson. “Let the artists decide where to put the mural in terms of their vision and what they want to do. To me, that might be a way to move forward with this and to continue the momentum without any further delays.”

The motion to allow artists to submit proposals for the location of their choice was approved unanimously by Council. However, when the amended motion came forward for a final vote, Councillor Gilliland was the lone vote against it.
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