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CreateSpace Public Art Forum 2022

An artistic response to the 2022 CreateSpace Public Art Forum, a national forum virtually convening participants who identify as Black, Indigenous (First Nations, Inuit and Métis), racialized, rural and/or youth with disabilities and between the ages of 18-25. Participants were presented with online talks themed around public art practices, studio tours by artist facilitators, a Keynote Event by artist Lori Blondeau, and opportunities to engage with fellow peers to inspire their final creations.

Project at a Glance

Location: Toronto, Ontario

Artist: Joaquin Varela

Year: 2022

Program: Artist Capacity Building


CreateSpace participants


artist facilitators


keynote speaker

Artist Statement

I was inspired by Latifa’s workshops and her fight against what she calls “A real gap in public awareness” when speaking about native plants, habitat loss and habitat restoration. My concept is to link education and public art through two mutually informed parts: A visual, more long-term component like a mural or place-making installation and a secondary more immediate component with the community such as workshops, wild life gardening, art-based nature lessons or guided walks.

I have come up with several variations following this concept for different spaces and communities, but I have chosen to expand on just one to help illustrate my concept- community centres. Specifically, ones that are located in communities that have lacked access to green spaces due to demographic, economic or historical barriers. I envision my concept to be made up of a collaborative mural and a native plant garden, both to be informed and enacted by a series of workshops with the public.

Workshop component: These will have room to collaborate with other facilitators, artist and indigenous teachers they can include art based lessons on local ecologies, importance of native plants, seed saving, etc. Together with participants we will restore an area on the grounds with a native plant garden.

Mural & Plant Garden component: The mural I will paint would include artwork collected from participants made in workshops and its theme will focus on native species or highlighting natural heritage of the area. Together with participants and the public we inaugurate the mural with its garden.

About the Artist

Joaquin Valera

Joaquin Valera

Joaquín, is a Colombian born visual artist who has always allowed his creativity to take him to different mediums, scales and explorations but has always been drawn to a more graphic and illustrative language to communicate this expression. Alongside practicing his illustration and art, Joaquín knows firsthand the positive and powerful impacts that come with access to expression, resources and good mentors. He strives to provide accessibility to others who are in need of that same nourishment.

@whakeen |

CreateSpace Public Art Forum

STEPS Public Art believes public art has the ability to challenge the systemic inequities that exist in public space. In support of this important work, we facilitate artist capacity building programs that foster inclusive public art practices, build the capacity of underrepresented artists, and demonstrate how public art can help reimagine equitably designed cities.

CreateSpace Public Art Forum is a digital forum that virtually convenes participants who identify as Black, Indigenous (First Nations, Inuit and Métis), racialized, rural and/or youth with disabilities and between the ages of 18-25. This forum fosters connections, builds understanding across geographies and cultures, as well as provide emerging equity-seeking artists with the skills, relationships and support needed to develop public art practices. Visit the online gallery to view all artistic responses by the 2022 forum participants.

CreateSpace Public Art Forum is supported by Canadian Heritage, Canada Council for the Arts and CIBC.

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