Art experiment RISE x WRITE = ASCENSION animates the Pan Am Path

Sponsored feature: Pan Am Path


The Pan Am Path is a lush 87 kilometre legacy trail linking diverse neighbourhoods across 13 wards in the GTA from Brampton to Scarborough. The Path was started by a group of Toronto artists and city-builders in collaboration with the City of Toronto, with the intention of enhancing the experience of the 2015 Pan Am Games while advancing the city’s overall connectivity, well-being and social inclusion.

Mandated with keeping the path lively is Friends of the Pan Am Path (FOPAP), an independent non-profit that actively engages GTA artists and community leaders to participate in creative projects which animate the path.  

On such project, RISE x WRITE = ASCENSION is the brainchild of artist Elicser and Reaching Intelligent Souls Everywhere (RISE) founder Randell Adjei. The pair teamed up to build a large-scale public mural at Bendale Park Underpass through a spoken word and street art cypher.

NOW spoke with Adjei about the creative journey and why Toronto needs more community-led arts initiatives.

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Mural credit: ElicserPhoto credit: XVXY Photo

C is for connectivity

“I love Scarborough,” gushes Adjei. “I love this place because of what it has allowed me to become.”

It’s here that, with the sponsorship of FOPAP, RISE hosted three workshops to bring the visions of 15 artists to life through a collaborative community approach. The innovative sessions explored moving from visualization to word and from word to visualization.

During workshops individuals participate in an exercise called “the tree of me.” Each participant draws a tree, its parts charting a map of their life and outlook (roots represent core values, the trunk core life experiences, branches are hopes and dreams, fruits are achievements and leaves are past or present fears). The self-expression activity is a subtle nod to Adjei’s hometown – Scarborough is surrounded by trees. “We want people to hone in on where they come from and where they are going,” Adjei explains.

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XVXY Photo

RISExWRITE=ASCENSION participants gather for a photo at mural unveiling.

W is for well-being

“There are a lot of creatives here using art to help people, using it as a form of therapy. We took what went on in the workshops and brought it back to the community,” says Adjei.

Visual artist Elicser sat in on each workshop to draw inspiration for the large-scale mural that now graces Scarborough’s Bendale Park Underpass. The result was a reflective piece, centering on themes of storytelling, nature, community and technology. The mural features an older man sharing a story with a youthful and attentive crowd.

Adjei describes the mural’s unveiling, “I felt moved and almost brought to tears just seeing how important it is the have to community and to have a village to go back to.”

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XVXY Photo

Artist Elicser (left) and RISE founder Randell Adjei (right) pose for a photo together at mural unveiling.

S is for social inclusion

A highlight of the collaboration was unveiling the finished mural with workshop participants in attendance. “We all walked together to go check out the mural and there were so many amazing conversation happening with people who had just met,” Adjei recalls. “There is something exhilarating about bringing people together and how scared it is to create spaces for people to learn and grow.”

One of RISE’s main calls to action is mentoring younger artists to be heard, seen, treated equally and taken more seriously.

Adjei explains, “The idea was if we stay motivated and continue to rise and write our stories that can be a formula for our ascension. I feel like the importance of art and community is sometimes overlooked, but it’s so vital and so needed. I’m grateful FOPAP reached out to us to keep the Pan Am Path legacy alive.”

To learn more about the Pan Am Path and their projects visit www.panampath.org.

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