On the afternoon of Saturday 3 May, a group of young artists unveiled two of their newest initiatives: a community mural and pop bottle plant installation at East York Town Centre. The local youth from the Flemingdon and Thorncliffe neighbourhoods are members of the Toronto Emerging ARTivists (TEA), a group of young people committed to improving public spaces through art.

The concept for the mural was created by the youth members who wanted to showcase the cultural diversity of Flemingdon and Thorncliffe. The result was a mural with “bubbles,” each bubble representing concepts and designs from different cultures. The design was first developed by the old members of TEA in 2013. Later on in the year, Toronto-based artist Nick Sweetman and the new members of TEA rendered a final design.


The finished mural displayed at East York Town Centre. Photo courtesy of Toronto Emerging ARTivists.

Painted with spray and acrylic paints on wooden panels, the mural can be easily transferred and installed. The mural took about four weeks to prepare and paint. The project was funded by the STEPS Initiative, Laidlaw Foundation, and the City of Toronto. In the end, artist Nick Sweetman said: “It was great working with the youth of this community. They were dedicated and talented, and they juggled their time around school for this project.”

Before tackling the mural, TEA youth gathered plastic bottles littered around the community for a pop bottle art piece. It took around three months for the students to finalize the concept of hanging bottles and chains, plant maintenance, and to find an installation location. They filled the bottles with pothos, also known as money plants, a type of hydroponic plant that requires little sunlight and maintenance, ideal for the mall environment. The goal of the installation is to raise awareness on littering, the harmful impacts of plastic bottles, and upcycling garbage. Ananna Rafa, TEA’s lead artist, received a micro grant of $1000 from Art Starts Platform A and decided to partner with TEA’s members for this project.


Youth members of TEA spent months designing and creating a hanging installation from recycled bottles and plants. Photo courtesy of Toronto Emerging ARTivists.

Saturday’s introductory event was a success, attended by over a hundred people and passersby in the Town Centre. The public was given the opportunity to partake in their own Eco Art, making their own t-shirts, pop bottle planters, and buttons, as well as enjoying some cake. “These guys are doing great things for this community,” said a recent graduate of MGCI, Owais Akhtar.

“This is a great idea. Thanks for making these walls more lively,” commented a local on the bottled plants. The youth were even surprised by several offers to purchase the plant installation.