Putting a bow and some cash on the calypso mural project 

By Stephen Weir

Roger Gibbs

It is a Calypso Christmas present. Roger Gibbs, the organizer of a project which will create a large outdoor mural devoted to calypso at Bathurst and Bloor Streets in downtown Toronto, learned yesterday that the city is providing $25,000 in grant money to make it all happen.

Song writer and performer Gibbs is working with the Blackhurst Cultural Centre, formally named A Different Booklist Cultural Centre, to oversee the painting of a large outdoor painting about all things Calypso in the city. The proposed outdoor wall mural will be in the new Mirvish Village currently under construction where the iconic Honest Ed’s department store once stood.  

“We are getting the money through the city’s StART  programme” explained Gibbs.“StART has supported projects like ours for a number of years, and this money kicks it all off.”

“StreetARToronto (StART) is a suite of innovative programs designed specifically for streets and public spaces.” explains the city’s website. “Launched in 2012 StART has been successful in reducing graffiti vandalism and replacing it with vibrant, colourful, community-engaged street art.”

Top cats

The actual building where the mural is going to be painted isn’t finished yet … but it soon will.  Dubbed the new Mirvish Village, it is currently under construction where the iconic Honest Ed’s once stood.  

The Blackhurst Cultural Centre, is directly across the street from where the mural will be installed. The Centre will be moving into a much larger space inside the Mirvish Village next year. The expansion will provide a permanent gathering place for learning, sharing, and celebrating the stories of African and Caribbean Canadians.

“We are working closely with the Mirvish Village real estate development company (Westbank Inc) to manage the process to install the mural,”continued Gibbs. “The painting at its highest will be 40 ft tall and adjacent to the main high traffic pedestrian entrance off Bathurst Street. It is going to be very visible to the street.”

The big question of course is what will the mural actually look like? Well, there isn’t an answer yet.  We do know it will highlight the Black and Caribbean community’s cultural achievements. 

This grant money will be used to find the artists and their Calypso-driven concept for the wall. Ads will soon be placed to help search out potential artists and vitally important corporate sponsors for the wall.

“We are under a tight deadline here,” continued Gibbs. “Assuming the entrance to the site is completed, we should be ready to start painting on Canada Day, 2023.”

 Calypso music of the Eastern Caribbean has made a significant contribution to Toronto’s entertainment scene since the late 1950s. Its spin-off, Soca, is the driving sound of the world famous Toronto Caribbean Carnival. 

There are several murals in Toronto that feature Caribbean performers ranging from Bob Marley to Salome Bay. However, there are no murals that feature Calypsonians … but after July 1st that will change in a big big way.