Street art installations give Don Valley rail bridge a massive makeover

Evergreen Brick Works and Friends of Pan Am Path lead project to have murals painted on Bridge 81 concrete pillars

There’s something about a blank canvas that speaks to an artist with a vision. When that canvas comes in the form of huge concrete pillars on display for the masses, there’s even more motivation to create something spectacular.

Japanese artist Hiroyasu Tsuri has done that with a massive mural below the historic rail bridge next to the Evergreen Brick Works in Toronto. With support from Metrolinx, his work was commissioned by Evergreen and Friends of Pan Am Path in 2017. The piece, featuring a large snake and plants native to the area, was completed in September.

“It makes things pop in a landscape that you hadn’t noticed,” said Hannah Kemp, the art and exhibits coordinator for Evergreen Brick Works. “You find yourself bringing new perspectives to something that has always been there.”

Tsuri’s mural is one of two that will be painted on Bridge 81, which is no longer in use, based on a “sustainable city” theme. The second will be created in the spring by world-renowned artists EL MAC + KWEST. Another called ‘The Pull of the Land’ by Faith XLVII has been there since 2013.

“It’s some of the elements that I like,” said Tsuri, otherwise known as TWOONE. “I like old, decaying walls, the greens and stuff. I like how it looks.”

Curator Emmanuel Jarus is an internationally recognized muralist from Toronto and has been excited about bringing this space to life.

“It’s obviously an older, historic looking bridge with a beautiful façade to paint,” said Jarus. “The fact that it’s unique instead of it being a flat, brick wall. As soon as something has its own personality and uniqueness to it, it makes it attractive as an art piece.”

In addition to continuing the tradition of adapting and reuse at the Evergreen site, public feedback was encouraged before the artists and their concepts were chosen.

“The site is so special as it stands,” said Ann-Marie Power, the programming director for Friends of the Pan Am Path. “Brick Works has a lot of meaning to residents as well as to the graffiti community and we wanted to represent both of these interests and then also tap into what people liked.”

Evergreen Brick Works sees more than half a million visitors annually, with tens of thousands of commuters passing the rail bridge pillars daily.

No longer will those people be staring at an old, concrete façade but a rejuvenated piece of transportation infrastructure with a long history in Toronto instead.