Published on August 8, 2023
A Q&A with Julia Prajza, the artist who led the painting of the community mural at Evergreen Brick Works.
If you’ve been to Evergreen Brick Works this summer, you’ve probably seen some of the incredible performances/activations as part of the Community Spotlight series. This program, sponsored by Bank of America, aims to demonstrate the value of inclusive public space by amplifying and centering other voices, communities and cultures at the Brick Works. Through this program, we offer our community the space and opportunity to showcase their ideas, performances, art and more.
We’ve had an exciting summer lineup so far, including activations from Prologue Performing Arts, Soulpepper Theatre Company, Our Greenway Canada, Selena Vyle, Art Hive Pop Up and the list continues. They’ve brought new life to so many different spaces at the Brick Works like the covered Pavilions, the bustling Tiffany Commons, the picturesque Frances and Tim Price Terrace and the beloved Children’s Garden.
In an effort to learn more about one our Community Spotlighters, we spoke to Julia Prajza, the artist who painted the iconic community mural in the Garden Market.
1. Can you tell us a bit about who you are and what you do?
Hello! My name is Julia Prajza and I’m a Muralist, Lettering Artist and Designer. I’m currently living and creating in Toronto, with a goal of bringing more joy and colour to our everyday lives. Why not transform our concrete jungle into a magical world of colourful art? Inspired by my creative mother, I discovered a passion for visual arts at a young age. Pursuing a creative education at my dream school, I went to OCAD University to study graphic design, graduating in 2013.
After seven years of working in the marketing and advertising world, I was burnt out from the digital world and felt a strong desire to create tangible work again, which led me back to drawing and painting. Through a series of fortunate events, serendipitous encounters and heartwarming mentorships, I’ve been working as a full-time freelance artist for almost three years now. I’m currently passionate about public and community-engaged art to beautify spaces, uplift our spirits and inspire us.
My signature style is vibrant and playful with folk inspired details and a whimsical feel, often focusing on nature and/or text-based imagery. Blending organic shapes with a graphic, bold approach, I like to say that my modern-meets-traditional aesthetic reflects the unique charm of the past seen through fresh eyes.
Curious by nature, I’m constantly exploring unique avenues, dabbling in many different areas keeping things fresh and exciting. From private to public spaces, brick to glass textures, vinyl print to hand painted, I’ve produced 60+ diverse murals – my most unique canvas being a three-dimensional 9′ tall rooster sculpture for Little Portugal. I also offer a variety of other services that include art curation, workshop facilitation, lettering, calligraphy, graphic design, art direction, etc. As I continue to grow my multidisciplinary practice, I hope to spark curiosity, encourage creativity and cultivate connection.
2. Can you speak to the importance of public art to our cities?
Public art is not just important to our cities, I believe that it’s essential for our wellbeing and growth as a city and a species. City life can get stressful, negative and mundane and so with the addition of public art we can alter that reality. First and foremost, the main benefit of public art is that it’s fully accessible and provided at no cost, meaning you don’t need to go into a fancy art gallery to experience art, it could be outside a random building, in a local park or right around the corner, often taking you by surprise.
Photo by: Stanley Shoolman
Public art is meant to be experienced and interacted with, allowing you to focus on the present moment, forcing you to pause, reflect, perhaps to make you think deeply, spark your curiosity, or simply to bring a smile to your face. Creating art in the public world improves our spaces, our commutes, our day-to-day lives and attitudes in general. I strongly believe in the power of art and its ability to improve our mental health because of this.
As an artist creating in the public art world in real time, I also have many thoughts on this topic, the main one being that people get to witness the creation of an art piece, something that always used to be a mysterious secret. I love demystifying the art process and letting people enjoy the various stages of art making. It often doesn’t look pretty throughout the process and involves patience and determination to complete a public art project. I believe this makes art more approachable and hopefully encourages others to try a creative hobby as a form of self-expression and enjoyment.
3. Through the Community Spotlight Program at Evergreen Brick Works, we aim to give our community the space and opportunity to bring their ideas to life. What has this experience been like for you?
This experience was truly heartwarming! With a community mural, you never know how it’s going to go, how many people will show up and what their energy will be like, so of course I was nervous, but I’ve learned that being extra organized and having no expectations is very important in this field of work. However, I’m glad to say that this event turned out to be wonderful. Lots of people showed up excited to paint – from families with little kids to young artists wanting to practice on a big wall, to older adults curious to try something new, and more.
It was so busy, I barely had time to participate in the painting myself, but setting people up and guiding them in order to contribute to this large mural was such a delight. Seeing strangers interact with each other and bond over the joy of painting is something magical to witness. I’m just grateful to have been a part of it. A special thanks to Janina and the Evergreen Brick Works team to have given me this opportunity.
When organizations and businesses give artists the freedom and trust to create, the potential is remarkable.
4. What inspired the design behind the mural that you created in the Evergreen Garden Market?
This mural design is called ‘Pollinator Garden’ and it was inspired by the abundance of native plants in the area and their colourful pollinators. This vibrant and playful scene tells the story of growth and biodiversity amongst the nature found at the Brick Works. It was such a joy to bring this plain white wall to life, celebrating in particular coneflowers, goldenrod and cup plants, bees, monarch and yellow swallowtail butterflies and their unique caterpillars.
A special thanks to Tyler at the Garden Market, who was super helpful with the identification of these plants and openness to my vision. As a lettering artist, I also wanted to incorporate words into the design. Based on the visuals, GROW seemed very fitting.
If you need a little extra encouragement today, here it is: Keep going and keep growing my friends.
5. What is a ‘community mural’ and what makes this type of mural special?
A ‘community mural’ is an extension of public art, where a large piece of art is created together with a group of people in the same place. This activity is usually done by painting on a wall and led by a professional artist. Public art and murals in general are mostly designed and produced by commissioned artists, whereas a community mural involves the engagement of others, either in collaboration or through various activities and guidance.
This type of mural is so special because of the invaluable experiences it creates for everyone involved. It offers people of all ages with little to no art experience a chance to participate and contribute towards an exciting project they can feel proud of, allowing them to connect with others in a shared experience. When people get out of their comfort zone and get lost in the flow of painting, they grow as individuals. It’s more about the process than the final outcome, where the involvement of these community members are vital to the project and everyone’s contributions are equally important.
The sense of pride that comes with being a part of something bigger, contributing towards an art piece that will live on to bring joy to others is really meaningful. The beauty of community murals is hard to explain in words, but instead something to experience in person.