It’s an unfortunate situation, but one that can’t easily be rectified.
That’s the point of view the Riverdale Hub, the Little India-area non-profit organization behind the block-long GerrardART Project, has decided to take in light of the recent defacing of a portion of its public art mural.
“These (kind of) things happen in many communities,” said Nuzhath Leedham, executive director of the Riverdale Hub and its sister organization, the Riverdale Immigrant Women’s Centre (RIWC), on Nov. 20, pointing to disagreements and/or misunderstanding between local stakeholders.
“The community is still behind this project. We have so much support.”
Further, she underlined the mandate of the Riverdale Hub and the RIWC is to bring people together, not divide the community in any way.
Sometime late Sunday, Oct. 28 or in the early morning hours of Monday, Oct. 29, a significant portion of a large-scale mural at 1330 Gerrard St. E. was defaced with white paint.
This act of vandalism led to the Riverdale Hub to postpone its Friday, Nov. 9 media event as well as the project’s unveiling celebrations, which were set to take place the weekend of Nov. 10 and 11 during the community’s Diwali Fair.
“We needed the time to digest the situation and didn’t want to react right away,” Leedham said, adding their goal is to repaint the mural as soon as possible and move forward.
“There is a bit of tension between the neighbours on the block. We want some resolution, for sure.”
She said they’d also like to find out who is responsible for the vandalism.
Leedham said the various designs for the project’s murals were prominently displayed in the front windows of the Riverdale Hub since September and they weren’t aware about any major concerns with what was envisioned for the mural’s eastern side at Highfield Road.
“We felt blindsided by the objection to the design,” she said, referring to the reaction after the mural had been painted.
The steering committee for the City of Toronto-funded project met Monday afternoon, Nov. 19, to discuss the next steps.
Its first move is to request a meeting between all involved and Councillor Paula Fletcher, who has asked city staff to do a complete investigation of all parties involved and to explore what verbal or written permissions were given for the public art project.
“As I understand it, there was a sign off for the mural, but I’m now waiting to have that corroborated. I’ve asked city staff to peel back the layers,” she said last week, expressing her disappointment a piece of the colourful project was painted over.
“It’s quite confusing, very complicated and terribly unfortunate. I’m hoping at the end of the day cooler heads will prevail all around.”
In a recent email to The Beach Mirror, Mohammad Asaduzzaman, president of Dinco Holdings Inc., the company that manages 1330 Gerrard St. E., indicated the plan is to “remove the mural entirely as soon as possible.”
“Riverdale Immigrant Women’s Enterprise and/or Ms. Nuzhath (Leedham, executive director of The Riverdale Hub and the Riverdale Immigrant Women’s Centre) has never approached us with (a) formal proposal for our approval. The owner of the building has informed the City of Toronto about his plan to restore the defaced walls,” he wrote Nov. 13.
“The owner of the building has spoken with the manager of Toronto Transportation Services regarding the matter. He has elaborated the letter of permission, adding details to the idea and clarifying the meaning of the letter and its discourse. The letter of permission was intended to show general support to City of Toronto’s plans.”
Moshiur Rahman, the building’s owner, who is in Bangladesh, did not respond to a request for comment by The Beach Mirror’s press time.
A May 2012 memo provided to The Beach Mirror by the Riverdale Hub indicated Rahman’s “full permission” to use his property for the StreetART Toronto grant.
Fifty-five Division police have looked into the situation, but are not commenting further on it.