Last month, a new set of banners lining Joyce Street were mounted, aiming to share stories of the Renfrew-Collingwood neighbourhood.
Illustrated by Aaniya Asrani, the banners lean into past and present, taking inspiration from a series of community gatherings that took place earlier this year.
“It started with community members gathering to [share] what home and community means to them,” said Asrani, noting that sessions took place at St. Mary’s Elementary School, Collingwood Neighbourhood House (CNH) and through a platform called Curiko.
In these sessions, participants collaborated with each other and the sun to capture their thoughts and the present moment using cyanotypes, a type of photographic process. Asrani and another artist named Annie Canto collaborated on some of the workshops, helping participants find materials in their local environment, such as leaves, rocks, grass and flowers. The pair also helped participants make drawings on acetate sheets to lay over top cyanotype paper and fabric, leaving a negative image of the form that was laid down.
Asrani then used these cyanotypes as a base to illustrate the history of the neighbourhood which would then be turned into the street banners along Joyce Street.
“The imagery I created in response was inspired by the history of Joyce-Collingwood, which used to be full of fields, apple orchards, and even a lake,” said Asrani. “As time went on, land was segregated and businesses and homes popped up, along with the road and railways that connected this place to others.”
“I’m super grateful to Loretta Houben’s hard work and research putting together the Collingwood Chronicles which goes into great detail about the history of this place from the perspective of someone who grew up here,” they added. “I was able to use direct references of maps and images of the actual trains to shape the artwork, share the story more accurately, and also develop the concepts around this specific context.”
Students from St. Mary’s participated in a short walk on Sept. 27 to see the banners and were very excited to recognize part of their work on the street, said staff at CNH. The banners are expected to stay up for the next two years.
This project was funded by the Neighbourhood Matching Fund.