Rich traditions colour town’s boring Bell boxes
Local artists shine a spotlight on town’s roses and innovation in astronomy
Residents on a stroll down Yonge Street and surrounding streets in Richmond Hill may be greeted with an extra hit of colour served alongside some town pride on their everyday city sidewalk: The Bell Box Murals project has arrived in York Region.
The project, which has grown to include 228 murals on Bell Canada outdoor utility boxes in 28 communities across southern Ontario and Quebec since it launched in 2009, enters Richmond Hill with the grand unveiling of eight Bell box murals this October. The artists were chosen out of 27 submissions by a special jury composed of members of the Town of Richmond Hill’s Canada 150 Committee and art advisory committee.
“We had no idea how many artists would be interested, but we are really, really pleased with the quality and the interest that we got from the submissions,” said Joanne Leung, the manager of heritage and urban design for the town. “We had no idea what to expect.”
The submission guidelines requested that artists submit proof of experience in outdoor artwork and a statement of intention, as well as a concept that aligned with the two themes chosen by the community. Importantly, the artists also had to have a connection to Richmond Hill.
The chosen artists are Katie Argyle, Gloria Hope, Jieun June Kim, Mustafa Masters, Margaret Cresswell, Robin Hesse, Cindy Scaife and Lula Lumaj.
The themes, “under one sky” and “the town that rose,” honour two important aspects of local history. Under one sky refers to the town’s David Dunlap Observatory, which opened in 1935 and facilitated pioneering studies in the field of astronomy prior to its sale by the University of Toronto in 2008 and remains Canada’s largest observatory. The town that rose honours Richmond Hill’s former title as the “rose capital” of Canada, hailing back to its thriving horticultural operations, which supplied steady employment in flower production in the city through the First and Second World Wars.
“There’s a series of murals that describe the history and some of the species of roses that have been related to Richmond Hill,” said Leung.
In the days leading up to the unveiling, the town invited members of the public to visit the Bell boxes scattered around central Richmond Hill and watch the artists as they painted. The works are to be officially unveiled on Oct. 1 at Elgin Barrow Arena.
L–R: Katie Argyle paints her Bell box; Robin Hesse’s finished mural