Arts Etobicoke is thrilled to be bringing Augmented Reality (AR) to The Village of Islington! Over the past year, we have worked closely with our four lead artists to combine AR technology and the story-telling of Indigenous and New Canadian artists to overlay a new narrative on the pre-existing historical murals, painted by artist John Kuna in The Village of Islington. Our project aims to diversify the artistic narrative of our community to more accurately reflect the citizens who live and work in The Village of Islington. The incredible lead artists are Philip Cote, Susan Blight, Collette Murray, and Luke Garwood. Through the magic of AR technology we are adding to the murals, sharing stories from our community, with a focus on immigration and Indigenous voices.

Sign up for one of our artist or staff Guided Mural Tours running every Saturday in August between 12:00 – 5:00 pm. Tours start at Arts Etobicoke, 4893A Dundas Street West, and devices are provided. 

Click here to Register for a Village of Islington Guided Tour

You can also post an image or screenshot of yourself experiencing the AR murals with the hashtag #DiscoverAE to be entered into a draw to win a gift basket filled with goodies from the Village of Islington! The contest will run until September 30th. Explore the Village, experience the new art and enjoy some delicious food!

Lead Artists

Philip Cote, of Moose Deer Point First Nation is a Young Spiritual Elder, Indigenous Artist, Activist, Educator, Historian and Ancestral Knowledge Keeper. Philip is a graduate of OCAD University’s Interdisciplinary Art Media and Design Masters program. 

He is engaged in creating opportunities for art-making and teaching methodologies through Indigenous symbolism, traditional ceremonies, history, oral stories, and land-based pedagogy. His art and teaching philosophy evolves from his practice of experiential learning and the transmission of Indigenous Knowledge. 

Philip has shared his knowledge with numerous institutions from York University, the Art Gallery of Ontario, University of Toronto, OCAD University, Peel District School Board and the TDSB.  Philip is also a tour guide with “First Story” since 2005, providing an Indigenous history of Toronto covering the last 13,500 years and as far back as 130,000 years. Philip has won numerous TABIA awards for his public street art murals across the City of Toronto.

Click here to watch Philip Cote’s video “Ice Runners” or “Oh-kwa-ming-i-nini-wug”

Susan Blight (Anishinaabe, Couchiching First Nation) is an interdisciplinary artist working with public art, site-specific intervention, photography, film and social practice. Her solo and collaborative work engages questions of personal and cultural identity and its relationship to space. Susan is co-founder of Ogimaa Mikana, an artist collective working to reclaim and rename the roads and landmarks of Anishinaabeg territory with Anishinaabemowin and is a member of the Indigenous Routes artist collective which works to provide free new media training for Indigenous youth. Her writing has been published in Shameless Magazine, the Globe & Mail, and on the Decolonization: Indigeneity, Society, and Education blog and she is the recipient of a 2014 IDERD award for her anti-racism work at the University of Toronto. Susan received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography and a Bachelor of Arts in Film Studies from the University of Manitoba, a Masters of Fine Arts from the University of Windsor in Integrated Media, and is a PhD student in Social Justice Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (UofT). In August 2019, Susan joined OCAD University as Delaney Chair in Indigenous Visual Culture and as Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences and School of Interdisciplinary Studies.

Collette Murray is a dance educator, cultural arts programmer and dance instructor. With a performance background over 20 years, Collette is Artistic Director of Coco Collective, a mobile, dance education business offering culturally responsive arts projects that represent African and Caribbean arts. Collette incorporates equity studies to her arts education, mentorship, arts advocacy and socially engaged community arts projects. Collette completed her Master of Education at York University with research on the teaching experiences of Black cultural arts educators within Ontario’s classrooms. Collette holds an Honours BA in Race, Ethnicity and Indigeneity from York University and a Sociology BA from University of Toronto. This award- winning artist is one of 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women honourees in 2020 and the 2019 Toronto Arts Foundation’s Community Arts Award recipient for transforming local communities through art. 

Luke Garwood dances, choreographs and makes hybrid media installations. He has collaborated with many of Toronto’s foremost dance makers, receiving six Dora Mavor Moore nominations, and landing a win for best ensemble in Heidi Strauss’ What it’s Like. As a designer, Garwood draws from his performance background to create hybrid media pieces that thematically address the body in digital space. He utilizes technologies such as motion capture, VR, AR, volumetric scanning, and 3D modelling to create interactive, hands-on pieces in which viewers have the ability to directly affect their experience of the work.

Community Artists

Ashley Beerdat is a visual artist and arts instructor who primarily works in oil painting using an impasto style to narrate fantastical stories based on references from pop culture, her childhood and imagination. In her practice, she explores themes of mythology, folklore and storytelling to try and make sense of the world around her. Storytelling is an important part of Ashley’s practice and stems from her culture as a Guyanese-Canadian in which she grew up listening to stories from elders to share lessons and pass down knowledge. Through her work she explores these traditional folktales in a contemporary, whimsical and playful manner. 

Born and raised in India, Karun Ramani studied and worked as an animator on TV shows and movies before making the move to core visual art. Karun immigrated to Canada in 2015 to pursue his goals of becoming an independent author/illustrator of graphic novels for children and adults alike. His work focuses on the more pressing issues of post-modern sustainability, environmentalism, existentialism and morality. Inspired by nature, technology, and art movements like Impressionism, Karun relies on multiple mediums to conjure his artwork. With a focus on bridging traditional and digital mediums, Karun uses both analog and digital materials to create.

Shabnam Afrand is an Iranian-Canadian interdisciplinary visual artist and educator born and raised in Tehran and moved to Canada in 2013. Shabnam’s body of work reflects the theme of power, displacement, time and the social concern . She creates an ambience of longing and memory by choosing the objects and forms in her practices. She obtained her Master of Fine Arts degree from Azad University with honors in 2001, with a thesis that examined the interpretation of women in art history.  She taught in the faculty of Fine Arts of Azad University from 2003 to 2010 and has been a member of the Iranian Painters Society since 2003. She has participated in numerous exhibitions and is currently based in Toronto. 

Aitak Sorahitalab is a visual artist, art instructor, and art manager with more than 15 years’ experience in the field. She holds a Master’s degree in Design and Production in Applied Arts from The Art University of Tehran. She had several exhibitions of her artwork and was commissioned to create public art in Iran and Canada (toronto).  Aitak worked as a lecturer at University of Applied Science Technology in Tehran, manager of Art and Creation Department at KANOON (Institute for Intellectual Development for Children and Young Adults), and worked with UNICEF, UNODC and Royal Museum of The Netherland. Since immigrating to Canada, Sorahitalab continued to research and teach art while maintaining her artistic production as a ceramic sculptor. She won several art grants and awards in Canada, and have curated two exhibitions in Toronto. Aitak is working with various art organizations in Toronto and is the co-founder and Executive Director of Airsa.

Natalie Very B. is a Polish-Canadian illustrator, muralist, and educator. She is passionate about facilitating art workshops with a strong focus on the therapeutic aspect of creative expression. Her large scale murals depict modern female empowerment and can be found all across the city of Toronto. She makes art with the goal of changing preconceived notions of feminism and promoting self-love and body positivity in the world.

Akshata Naik is an internationally recognized, talented visual artist, arts educator, curator, and administrator. She is the Program and Gallery Manager at Arts Etobicoke and is very invested in community arts both through her job and her personal art practice.

Before moving to Canada,  Akshata was an Assistant Professor at Parul University in Gujarat, where she taught drawing and painting. Akshata moved to Canada in 2017 and quickly became active in the arts scene, widely showing her interactive art in many exhibitions reaching diverse communities across Toronto. Akshata is also an accomplished speaker, most recently presenting at the Gathering 1.0 organized by Cultural Pluralism in the Art Movement Ontario (CPAMO) and Emergence Symposium organized by the Neighbourhood Arts Network Among her many accomplishments, Akshata received a Newcomer Artist Mentorship Grant by Toronto Arts Council in 2019 and a 2020 RBC Newcomer Arts Award.

Augmented Reality in the Village of Islington received grant funding as part of ArtworxTO: Toronto’s Year of Public Art 2021–2022, a year-long celebration of Toronto’s exceptional public art collection and the creative community behind it. Working closely with artists and Toronto’s arts institutions, ArtworxTO will deliver major public art projects and commissions, citywide, from fall 2021 to fall 2022. Supporting local artists and new artworks that reflect Toronto’s diversity, ArtworxTO is creating more opportunities for citizens to engage with art in their everyday lives. This September, the City of Toronto invites the public to discover creativity and community–everywhere. Visit for full details.