Arts Etobicoke is thrilled to present Sites of Significance – an immersive digital art project that combines public art, technology, and placemaking. Through the use of Augmented Reality (AR) artists will animate several sites of historical and cultural importance to communities in Etobicoke. 

Arts Etobicoke has commissioned Indigenous artists Susan Blight, Philip Cote, Nyle Miigizi Johnston, and Quinn Hopkins to identify sites significant to Indigenous culture and history across the three wards in Etobicoke. Furthermore, to reflect and highlight the cultural diversity of communities in Etobicoke, we invited artists from BIPOC, newcomer, and refugee communities to identify sites that are of cultural value to their communities. The selected artists are Khadija Aziz, Nicholas Sanchez, and Khaula Mazhar. All together we will have six artists interpreting, re-imagining, and animating six sites across Etobicoke. Each site and the resulting experience will be unique as it represents the commissioned artists’ unique perspective and art practice. All six sites will be marked with a permanent signpost or plaque commemorating the project and describing its significance along with instructions to access the commissioned digital artwork through the AR app called LARGE

Arts Etobicoke is delighted to partner with Lakeshore Arts and Albedo Informatics for Sites of Significance. We are excited to launch a variety of public art projects across Etobicoke in 2021. To know about our other digital public art projects, see Augmented Reality in the Village of Islington and Digital Arts at the Cloverdale Hub

Meet the Artists

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.

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.

Nyle Miigizi Johnston’s spirit name is Wiishkoonseh Miigizi’enh means Whistling White Headed Eagle. He grew up in Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation and apprenticed with Storytellers since his youth. Sources of his artistic inspiration include woodland painters, Story Tellers and the traditions of his indigenous culture. Johnston notes: “In a time of reconciliation, it is important for all people to know that we exist and have such a strong, beautiful legacy of stories and teachings from the Anishinaabe Nation that are grounded in my experience and identity.”

Johnston has an established portfolio of work and is well recognized in Toronto. His original works are showcased at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and in the Jennings Young gallery (J.S. McLean Centre for Indigenous & Canadian Art). Johnston’s Diiyah Muh’gaanag (Our First Family) is a collection of images of spiritual beings, plants and animals based on Anishinaabe teachings. Drawn in a pictographic style, they tell stories of botany, astrology and the interconnectedness of all living things.  Johnston currently lives in Toronto, Ontario, and is a contributing member to the Indigenous & Canadian collection at the AGO

Quinn Hopkins is a Digital, AR, VR artist and Painter, Mural artist. He is a student at OCADU studying Drawing & Painting for his Bachelor of Fine Arts. Quinn is grateful to have  Conrad Bobiwash, Blake Angeconeb and Nyle Miigizi Johnston as artist mentors, teachers and helpers. He was recently featured on CBC for his involvement with the innovative non-fungible tokens (NFT’s) and empowering other indigenous artists with the technology. Quinn uses Adobe Creative Cloud, Blender, and SparkAR to create his AR artworks for use on Instagram. This practice is developing to be integrated with all of Quinn’s physical pieces. Quinn considers his art practice as a “medicine that creates balance in his life and remedies his mental health struggles”.

Khadija Aziz is a textile artist and educator investigating textile materiality in the digital sphere using a flatbed scanner, cloth, and thread. She graduated from OCAD University’s Material Art & Design program in June 2020 with a BFA, and she is currently pursuing an MFA at Concordia University’s Fibre & Material Practices program. Khadija received the 2019 Award of Excellence in Community Arts Engagement from the Ontario Museum Association for her work at the Textile Museum of Canada. In recognition of her creative practice, Khadija has most recently received the Shanks Memorial Award in Textiles from Craft Ontario and the Creative Promise Award from Surface Design Association in 2020.

Find out how you can get involved with Khadija’s project!

Nicolas Sanchez: “Born in 1983, and raised in Venezuela, my whole family is from Uruguay. My parents migrated to Venezuela for political persecution reasons in the late 70’s. I studied fine arts in the University of the Fine Arts in Caracas, Venezuela from 2000-2002. In 2005 at the age of 21, I moved to Uruguay and finished my studies in Fine Arts and Mural Arts at the School of Beaux Arts. Since 2007 started a self taught process of intervention in walls, in public spaces, suddenly I found myself involved in a rising movement of amateur muralists in town, developing something very different than graffitti. Soon after I was able to choose the specialization in mural techniques in my art academy, doing specific workshops in the matter. From 2009 to 2012 I developed what later became all my skills for mural painting. In parallel with this academic formation I started to work as a mural artist in 2009 for private clients. Since 2015 I started traveling the world, visiting 25 countries in Asia, North and South America and Europe, painting in different sorts of mural projects. I have participated in several collective and solo exhibitions in my homelands, as well as in New York, Berlin, London, San Pablo, and Caracas. I moved to Canada by the end of 2019 and have lived and worked in Toronto since then.”

Self-taught, award-winning artist Khaula Mazhar’s intrigue with emotions evoked by situations and surroundings seeps its way into her multifaceted subject matter. Inspired by Rumi’s quotes, her fascination with the world and our connections within it is the main theme of her smaller artwork while her passion for nature conservation can be seen in her outdoor murals throughout the GTA. A true believer that art is good for you she is actively involved in art activities that engage the community. 

Sites of Significance is presented in partnership with Lakeshore Arts and Albedo Informatics.