London artists express connection amid coronavirus pandemic via mural in Richmond St. underpass

London’s Richmond Street underpass is getting a makeover by a group of community members sharing their art and stories.

The Connections in Chaos project will soon unveil a mural on the walls of the underpass created by artists Melanie Schambach and Alejandro Zuluaga, as well as 80 community contributors.

Schambach tells 980 CFPL the group worked on the mural for 13 weeks over the summer, and it’s set to be completed by the end of October.

“We gathered many stories and [the participants] drove these stories to 13 murals that will be speaking to their understandings of how during the [COVID-19] pandemic, we are encouraged to pause and think more deeply into the connection between ourselves and the community.”

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Schambach says the team has worked hard to complete this project.

“A few weeks ago, we had a big group scratching off the old paint (on the underpass). We also had another crew do an underpainting. Next week, we’re going to be installing the works that had been created through the last few months.”

Thirteen groups, each with a different theme and art medium, are assigned one part of a mural panel to paint, photograph, draw or use another art form.

Schambach is responsible for putting them together digitally before printing it on a PVC board to be installed on the underpass walls, which has a significance of its own.

“It’s metaphorical. When you’re going through an underpass, you’re going through a threshold, and going through the chaos is when you’re able to feel what’s happening around us,” Schambach explained.

“We’re regenerating an understanding that everybody is an artist and everybody should create art, and doing it collectively [also] builds intimacy with the [community].”

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Volunteers scratching off the old paint on the Richmond Street Underpass. (Melanie Schambach/Provided)
Volunteers scratching off the old paint on the Richmond Street Underpass. (Melanie Schambach/Provided).Melanie Schambach/Provided

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The project, which received funding from the City of London’s Neighbourhood Decision Making program last fall, originally planned to offer a series of workshops to create painted panels, but these plans were shut down by the pandemic.

“This project is a great example of the amazing things that happen when residents decide how to spend public dollars,” said Ryan Craven, a community developer with the city.

“The Richmond Street underpass is an important gateway into the downtown and it will soon be filled with beautiful expressions of community spirit.”

The community artists will celebrate the official unveiling of the mural on Oct. 24.

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— With files from 980 CFPL’s Jess Brady

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Kelowna artists design mural for Metro Community

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