A New Market on the Holland River
We write a lot here about what’s new, and hot and trending in Newmarket. And today, it’s not all that different -but this time with some historic flare. This morning, I had the honour of attending an exciting new art installation over the Holland River in downtown Newmarket. If you’ve been to Islington in Toronto, you may have seen epic pieces of art like the one below. I love them because they lend a glimpse into the lives of people who might have been in that same space - in some cases, hundreds of years ago.
This image above is only one of many beautiful, historical depictions that John Kuna has created for the Islington BIA. You can check out much of his public art online or, even better, a trip to the Islington BIA might be in order!
And now, you can add Newmarket to your tour of epic wall murals. Artist John Kuna, spoke at a reception and unveiling earlier today and shared his inspiration and insight into the work. When you look at the mural from the Water Street bridge, you feel as if the piece of art was designed as part of the original building or like the scene is happening in real time. Mr. Kuna explained that he thinks that a mural should “exist in harmony with it’s surroundings,” and that this piece was in fact “designed to be responsive to the environment” in which it’s situated. I think he accomplished this with extraordinary precision. But you’ll have to check it out for yourself to be sure.
When asked about some of the finer details of the piece and the depiction of a scene between the Quaker settlers and the First Nations of the area, Mr. Kuna pointed out two distinct and remarkable details. The first- that the two small children in the photo are the only two figures in the scene who are looking towards the viewer of the mural. This is to address the “future relationship” and symbolism of the future that is held in the youth. The second piece of note is that the scene takes place in winter rather than on a hot summer day. This artist chose this perspective to represent that “Canada back then was a harsh environment…it was important to me that literally half of the painting is of the settlement and half is of a snowy, winter scene, the great white north, symbolizing the blank slate that history is about to be written on.”
“I wanted the scene to take place in the winter as the harsh snowy landscape better conveys the resilience needed, than an idyllic summer day. I also wanted to show both the Quakers and First Nations people in winter dress. This is to stress that these were hardy people who physically endured conditions that we can scarcely imagine. Visually it also lends a casual everyday look to the figures as I find that most historical photos and illustrations tend to glamorize their subjects.
The upriver landscape depicts more of the mystery of the Ontario wilderness rather than the details of a new settlement. This is to convey the “newness” of the settlement.The pristine white landscape beyond acts almost as blank slate onto which the future has yet to be written.”
The commissioned art was made possible through a partnership with Buckley Insurance Brokers (the owners of the building), and depicts the historical Roe & Borland Trading Post founded circa 1814, around which the Quaker settlement, later to be known as Newmarket, sprouted. The art installation was developed in consultation with the Newmarket Historical Society, the Elman W. Campbell Museum, Heritage Newmarket, Suzanne Smoke of Biindigen Healing and Arts and the Chippewas of Georgina Island Chief and Council. The mural scene depicts two Chippewa families arriving to the Post from downriver where they are greeted by a member of the Quaker community.
I’m so excited for you to check out this artist, but if you can’t manage to see it in person, have a look below for a sneak peak at this amazing piece of artistry and depiction the history of Newmarket. The best view, in my opinion, is still in person from the Water Street bridge. Take your time and enjoy the way that the piece fits so perfectly into the landscape.