For over 11 years, First Capital has developed a significant and longstanding relationship with the Ontario College of Art & Design University (OCAD U). In partnership with OCAD, we’ve held various art competitions challenging students to create unique installations at some of our properties across Canada. These competition pieces provide exposure for the artists while beautifying the neighbourhoods in which they are displayed. With every new piece we’re reminded of their creativity, imagination, and talent. We are thrilled to help them kick start their careers and build their professional portfolios.
This Artist Spotlight features our newest art installation, and the creative minds behind it. Recently, we met up with the three winners of First Capital and OCAD’s first ever mural-specific art call competition, Anastasia Tarkhanova, Zuna Amir, and Ashlyn Mundy. Tasked with designing to the theme of equity, diversity, and inclusion, while embodying the Yonge & Roselawn neighbourhood, these young artists impressed the judges, OCAD professors, and First Capital employees alike.
Just four months ago, Anastasia, Zuna, and Ashlyn found themselves looking for ways to build their artistic portfolios as fresh new graduates of OCAD University. By freelancing, assisting on bigger projects, and growing their own brands and businesses, they faced difficulty amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Upon hearing about First Capital’s student and alumni mural competition on equity, diversity, and inclusion (ED&I) in our Yonge & Roselawn neighbourhood, they were immediately interested.
The theme sparked their creativity and left plenty of room for interpretation. They were confident in their abilities to produce a quality mural reflective of their differing cultural backgrounds. Their decision to work together was easy – not only were the three friends from OCAD, but they’d previously won a similar competition that had been canceled due to the pandemic last year. This was their chance at redemption, to prove themselves once again, and to showcase their artistic skill and talent.
As they began brainstorming ideas and possible designs, their main objective was to bring the Yonge & Roselawn neighbourhood to life. Differing from Toronto’s bustling downtown core, they knew this neighbourhood had more of a community-like feel, consisting of a diverse population, local businesses, friendly dog walkers, and growing families. Out of the three artists, Anastasia lives in the neighbourhood with her boyfriend, and is a regular at the local coffee shops. As a Russian immigrant, it is stories like hers that create the wonderfully diverse community at Yonge & Roselawn.
Working virtually during the creative process, their goal was to make the mural as cohesive as possible, attempting to avoid it looking as though three individuals had worked on it. Using paint as their artistic medium, they decided on a 2D/flat image given the competition’s time constraint. Accounting for the large space (50ft long by 14ft high), they developed a striking colour palette to capture the eye from afar. Sending designs back and forth, their differing areas of expertise and creative opinions, coupled with their comfortability to be frank with one another, ultimately proved to be a recipe for artistic success.
From March to April, the three worked diligently to meet the proposal due dates upon each round’s progression. Although confident in their mural, they grew nervous as they couldn’t gauge their competition, meet the other contestants, nor review their entries – a truly suspenseful moment for the trio.
Not long after did Anastasia, Zuna, and Ashlyn find out the exciting news of being the chosen winners of First Capital’s mural competition. With this win in their back pocket, it ultimately marked the next major milestone in their careers.
You work so hard and are hopeful, and then once you get it, it’s extremely rewarding– Anastasia
Throughout the month of June, Anastasia, Zuna, and Ashlyn began hand-painting the mural onsite in the Yonge & Roselawn neighbourhood. Since they had never really worked on something of this size and scale, seeing the large blank wall in person was a bit overwhelming at first – far bigger than their small computer screens. Despite their nerves, they all agreed how refreshing it felt to socialize and work with others again, following Ontario’s third lockdown.
On site, the team was delighted by the vibrancy and inviting atmosphere, receiving daily greetings from the locals and free meals from the onsite food truck, Home Appliances Food Co. Not only does the mural beautify the area, but the three believe it creates a community gathering place. They recall one woman saying that the sight of the mural had brightened her day, and another stopping to read a book against the new mural backdrop.
Overall, Anastasia, Zuna, and Ashlyn are extremely proud of their final work of art and are positive that it’ll only bring them more success going forward – growing their careers, portfolios, and artistic ability. They all agreed that after working on this incredible outdoor mural at Yonge & Roselawn, they see themselves working together again and on something similar. Above all else, they take pride in how they have beautified a piece of their community, and that their work is on display for their friends, family, and neighbours to see.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to current and former students in the arts?
Keep on trying for as many opportunities because the worst thing you’re going to hear is no… so keep putting yourself out thereZuna
Follow your heart and do what you want because someone is going to hate it… Also, say yes to things you might not be sure about… Look at us nowAshlyn
Just keep producing because I believe it’s better to not have opportunity but be ready, than not be ready but have opportunity… so if you know you can do it and you continue to apply for things, you could be chosen in a second and you don’t want to be overwhelmed when that happens… Also, networking; for me, it’s not necessarily how talented you are, it’s who you know because people want to work with people they know. Keep talking to people because you never know who you’re going to meet or where it’s going to take youAnastasia
We couldn’t be prouder of these three amazing artists and look forward to seeing their continued success in the future! We congratulate them on their well-deserved win in our ED&I-themed competition, and for their work-of-art featured proudly in our Yonge & Roselawn neighbourhood. To learn more about the artist and their portfolios, head to their websites and socials below: