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Embracing diversity through artistic exchange: From Toronto to Valparaíso, Chile

A mural on the side of an apartment complex in Chile

Through street art, Chileans and Canadians are celebrating creativity and diversity.

Art has the power to tell stories, instill pride and even foster inclusion.

That’s exactly what a recent cultural exchange between Chile and Canada accomplished.

Like Canada, Chile is a country home to different cultures, religions and ethnicities. And like Canada, there is still more work to do in Chile to ensure that all segments of society are included and have equal opportunities. Alongside local partners, the Embassy of Canada in Chile is showing that communities are stronger when we work together, respect our differences and give everyone the chance to participate.

Making connections from Canada to Chile

The Embassy supported the “Creative Cities” exchange project to bring Canadian artists, Jarus and Kreecha, to paint two public murals in the port city of Valparaíso.

The project was a collaborative effort with Canadian organization, Creativo Arts, directed by Canadian-Chilean cultural promoter living in Toronto, Rodrigo Ardiles, local art organization, Valparaíso en Colores and Chile’s Ministry of Cultures, Arts and Heritage regional office in Valparaíso, under their ‘Emerge Valparaíso’ program.

This was the second phase in the “Creative Cities” exchange between Toronto and Valparaíso, as fostered by Creativo Arts and with support from the City of Toronto and other Canadian organizations. In phase one, two Chilean artists traveled to Toronto and painted murals in the Dundas West District. These public art works reflected the diversity and rich cultures of Canada’s largest city and are now part of the Dundas West Open Air Museum, which was launched in June 2019.

“Murals make neighbourhoods feel more welcoming and walkable. They encourage citizens to be creative and foster a sense of identity, belonging and openness. They can also boost economic development and tourism in the neighborhood”, said Rodrigo Ardiles.

Local daycare inspires Jarus’ mural

Jarus’ mural of a girl from the local daycare centre
Jarus’ mural of a girl from the local daycare centre. Photo: Creativo Arts

In Chile, both Canadian artists engaged with the local community before starting their murals.

Inspired by his visit to a local daycare centre, Jarus chose a young girl to be the subject of his painting (YouTube), evoking a sense of the joy and innocence of children. The daycare is an important community hub for families and friends living in Cerro Panteón, near the space designated for his mural.

“My art is inspired by human life and the things that I see.”

Jarus, Canadian artist

Kreecha’s mural puts Indigenous world views in the spotlight

Kreecha’s mural integrates Indigenous symbols from his own Cree heritage as well as from Mapuche culture
Kreecha’s mural integrates Indigenous symbols from his own Cree heritage as well as from Mapuche culture. Photo: Creativo Arts

As part of his exchange in Chile, Kreecha, a member of the Cree Nation, met with members of the Chilean-Indigenous Mapuche community Ruka Lawen in Villa Alemana. They spoke about the history of their nations, their Indigenous cosmovisions (world views), as well as specific issues facing Indigenous peoples in both countries, such as environmental protection and the impact of climate change.

Kreecha felt a connection to the experiences of the Mapuche people. He designed a mural integrating Indigenous symbols (YouTube) from his own Cree heritage as well as from Mapuche culture. The mural is located in Cerro Larraín and features a big brown bear standing on the back of a turtle and, as a background, Chilean mountains and the Pehuén trees, which are significant in Mapuche culture.

“The bear on the back of the turtle means strength, power and warrior spirit protection for the earth, which is represented by the turtle.”

Kreecha, Canadian-Indigenous artist

Building a more accepting and inclusive world

Art has a special ability to bring people together. Art can transcend words, and in the case of Valparaíso’s new murals, spread messages of acceptance and inclusion. The murals are public reminders to embrace and be proud of the different cultures and perspectives in our communities.

In fact, the murals are now featured on walking tours in both Toronto and Valparaíso.

“Street art, urban art, muralism have been able to recognize the greatest wealth of Valparaíso, which is its diversity, its heterogeneity.”

Constance Harvey, Seremi of Cultures, Arts and Heritage

For Canada, diversity is a source of strength. Embracing diversity makes our communities and our countries more peaceful, innovative, resilient and prosperous.

“Through this cultural exchange, we are deepening the ties between Canada and Chile and promoting Toronto and Valparaíso as creative cities. These murals are a testimony to the pride we feel in sharing our diverse cultural identities.”

Patricia Peña, Ambassador of Canada in Chile

The Canadian Embassy was proud to work with cultural partners to encourage inclusion and respect for diversity in both Canada and Chile.

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