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“The Right Direction”: How the new mural came to be

posted on Wednesday, February 5th, 2020

By now you’re probably noticed the mural outside the store. If you don’t know how it happened to get there, you may have questions. Fortunately, Karma general manager Talia McGuire has answers.

It came about in an unlikely way—with some luck, some good timing, and some hard work, according to Talia. “This is how a lot of things happen at Karma…all of a sudden we have this amazing opportunity, and we need to take advantage of it,” Talia says.

The Laneway Project is a not-for-profit organization in the city that beautifies laneways, in part by matching artists with homeowners to paint their garages or laneway houses. Talia relates, “We’ve worked with them before, [and] they knew that we had this laneway wall that was the target of a lot of graffiti… And they approached me saying, ‘We have this amazing opportunity, do you want a mural for free?’ “

The mural is the culmination of two-week long engagement campaign with Scott Helman, a singer-songwriter in Toronto.

“[Scott] did this engagement campaign around climate change with his fans and the mural is the culmination of that project, to be the expression of his fans’ ideas and thoughts and emotions around climate change,” Talia says of the project that led to the mural’s creation.

Karma was approached to be the recipient of project’s mural on the specified days, but with little input as to its content and with quick approval from the board of directors. “We were sent an initial sketch and couldn’t really comment too much on the content of the sketch,” Talia continues. “It was cool to see it morph and change from what the original sketch was. [The artist, Kyla Buium, also known as Milkbox] came into Karma and was looking around, and thought it was so cool that we had a large focus on zero waste and allowing people to bring in their own containers. There are some things in the mural now that are Karma-inspired, that inspired the artist.”

The day was exciting, Talia recalls. “I don’t think I had any idea how famous Scott was, but… climate change is really important to him. I had no idea what the scope of the project was until they came and I started talking with Scott and the artist and his management team about what this really was.”

The painting was a two-day process, with the second including fans who were invited to sign the wall, and a live-feed filming the murals’ creation.  Environmental Defence joined as well, and Greenpeace mentioned Karma and the project on Twitter. Talia says, “[There was] lots of energy, lots of cameras… It was a really energetic day.”

The more Talia learned about the project, the more she realized it aligned with Karma’s ideals. “I thought it was so fitting for Karma. And Scott said, “I’m so happy we ended up painting your wall because there’s so much connection between the project and Karma and what you do.”

Moreover, it continues Karma’s work around community and environmental issues. “To be part of that movement, being able to showcase and amplify the voices of youth and their concerns around climate change…a lot of kids can’t vote and don’t have a voice, so it’s nice to be able to give them a platform.”

How has it been received? “It’s been really positive. Everyone is grateful first of all!” Talia enthuses, noting the wall’s graffiti made it sometimes not quite so picturesque. “It’s bright… There are some darker themes going on, but it’s a good conversation piece, and it’s a way to engage the larger community around climate change. And there’s some hope, and things that we can do to move things in the right direction. We’re not powerless.”

Submitted by Kyla Winchester