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Pillars of the (Regent Park) Community

July 16, 2015

Came across this blog post on the pillar murals I was commissioned to do earlier this year for the Artscape Lounge at Daniels Spectrum. Still feeling so grateful for the opportunity to work with the Regent Park and Daniels Spectrum community on such a deeply meaningful project. The kind of work that allows me to connect with communities and bring their stories, their histories to life in however way I can is why I do this work in the first place. 

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http://danielsspectrum.ca/pillars-of-the-regent-park-community/

Where some people saw a structural element, graphic designer Christine Mangosing saw a way to bring a little bit of Regent Park flavour into the lobby of the Daniels Spectrum.

The three pillars inside Daniels Spectrum’s east-facing floor-to-ceiling glass windows had gone unadorned since the building opened, and staff had long seen them as an opportunity in waiting—a blank canvas that could be used to make the lobby feel warmer and more welcoming, and encourage passersby to pop in and enjoy the space.

“We wanted to represent the diversity of Regent Park in a way that would also complement the many ways the space is used, from community events to special events,” said Seema Jethalal, Managing Director of Daniels Spectrum.

Christine Mangosing, principal creative and founder of CMANGO DESIGN, was selected to lead the project. She had worked previously with several members of Daniels Spectrum’s community including the Kapisanan Philippine Centre for Arts and Culture, ArtReach Toronto, and Manifesto, and is deeply engaged with the youth non-profit arts and culture community in Toronto.

Mangosing toured the Regent Park area to get a sense of the public spaces and diverse groups that make up the fabric of the community, and to learn about the invisible history – the places that aren’t physically there any more but live on in the community memory. A community consultation was also held where community members and representatives of the organizations in the building engaged with the designer, chatting about Regent Park’s past and present and looking at fabrics, patterns and murals from around the world for inspiration.

“There was a sense among everyone present that they wanted to make sure the people in the community were represented in where they came from, and a strong desire for that diversity be reflected in the design,” Mangosing explained.

The result is a vibrant piece titled Tela, a digital illustration on vinyl that wraps around each pillar. Mangosing’s full artist statement, describing the fascinating array of cultural and visual allusions in the design, is included below. The designer says she’s thrilled with the result, and that the positive response she’s gotten from people who participated in the community consultation has left her with a strong sense of satisfaction about the project.

According to Jethalal, since Tela was installed on March 2nd  the refreshed pillars have been met with enthusiasm and delight by the building’s tenants and community members alike. “When they first see the pillars, people love them aesthetically. And when they learn the stories behind each element of the design, it adds a whole new layer of meaning, and their reaction goes through the roof!”

Tela, 2015

Digital illustration on vinyl
Christine Mangosing (CMango Designs)

Woven textiles in many cultures serve as markers of identity, lineage, and environment, among others. Similarly, totem poles, for the First Nations of the Pacific Northwest, are commemorative monuments of history, ancestry and people. With these cultural objects, along with sentiments on the spirit of the “old” Regent Park (shared by residents of the neighbourhood and tenants of Daniels Spectrum) as inspiration, my goal was to interpret a visual “fabric” of the community— as an homage to its people and its past, and a reminder to visitors and new residents of what came before.

Nestled within a grid structure modeled after the map of Regent Park (from Gerard to Queen, Parliament to River), motifs inspired by traditional textiles, beadwork and architectural details native to the cultures from which past and current residents hail, intersect with lines and symbols representing elements of the area’s landscape and original architecture. Shapes recalling the grillwork in an Islamic Indian temple and the geometric forms of West African mud cloth sit alongside lines depicting the rows of bricks and windows in a Regent Park high-rise. Embroidery from a Bangladeshi quilt evokes the chain link fences bordering the ice rinks and basketball courts that served as social meeting points for the youth of the community. Rows of tiny “shells” inspired by Anishinaabek wampum belts, form the shapes of the iconic “dog-bones” and “barbells” of the low-rise buildings seen from above, while stylized flowers inspired by a Vietnamese floral motif reference the neighbourhood’s community gardens and the numerous trees that had once populated the “garden city.”

In the same way that traditional textiles tell the story of their makers’ surroundings, these familiar elements, abstracted and intertwined, aim to serve as a reflection of spaces once inhabited and honour the stories embedded within them.

Christine Mangosing