Indigenous art concept by Tannis Nielsen selected for Lower Simcoe underpass
July 12, 2017
The City of Toronto announced today that artist Tannis Nielsen, of Métis, Anishnawbe and Danish ancestry, has been chosen to create artwork in the underpass for Lower Simcoe Street between Station Street and Bremner Boulevard.
“We are delighted with the jury’s selection and are excited even now in anticipation of watching Tannis Nielsen and her team’s artwork come to life at this site. We have a very long way to go on our journey in search of truth and reconciliation, however this large scale mural in this prominent location, recognizing the Indigenous heritage of these lands, is a step along the path. It sends an enduring message, sure to be heard well into the future,” said Councillor Joe Cressy (Ward 20 Trinity-Spadina).
Nielsen’s concepts, Ontario Elder/Teacher Wall and Water Wall, give precedence to place. “I want residents and visitors to be introduced to the Elders and respected leaders of our communities, to be able to read about them and some of their greatest teachings given in relation to the land,” said Nielsen. “In Water Wall, I want to honour water teachings and those who walk for the water.”
Nielsen has 20 years of professional experience in the arts, cultural and community sectors, and nine years of teaching practice at the post-secondary level. Nielsen currently teaches at the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) University in the Painting and Drawing program.
The two-stage art call for this project was open to artists who identify as Indigenous Persons. The goal of this project is to beautify and animate the underpass with a mural that celebrates the voices, creativity and continued impacts of Indigenous Peoples and is representative of the local, historical Indigenous perspective. Nielsen’s artwork will transform the underpass into a celebrated community feature. The team of artists that Nielsen assembled to assist in this production include Dumoulin Bush, Tia Cavanagh, Nyle Johnston, Kaiatanoron Karlyn Reuben and Brianna Stone.
The Lower Simcoe Underpass, located in Toronto’s downtown South Core neighbourhood, was constructed in 2009. It connects Toronto’s Financial District to the Waterfront and is a key corridor linking visitors and residents with Union Station and a number of major attractions and notable landmarks.
The mural will be painted this summer and its completion will be celebrated at an official unveiling event later this fall. As part of the implementation process, Nielsen will invite and mentor young artists from the Toronto Indigenous community.
Launched in 2012, StreetARToronto is an initiative of the Transportation Services Division and managed by the Public Realm Section. It is an innovative, public-private partnership designed to develop, support, promote and increase awareness of street art and its ability to beautify the city’s visual landscape and decrease graffiti vandalism. The StART Underpass Program (StART UP) provides opportunities for artists to create works of art that contribute to the program mandate; make walking and cycling, as well as driving through Toronto’s underpasses more appealing; and strengthen the sense of place, inclusion and belonging within communities. Follow us on Twitter at
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