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Wawatay projected on Odeyto
BigArtTo, a citywide public art initiative, launches at Seneca’s Indigenous centre Odeyto at Newnham Campus.

Sept. 17, 2020

Toronto Mayor John Tory launched a citywide public art initiative at Seneca’s Indigenous centre Odeyto at Newnham Campus last night, showcasing the works of Seneca talent to help Toronto businesses, neighbourhoods and residents safely recover and rebuild during the pandemic.

Seneca graduates and projection artists Emma Lopez and Pedro Narvaez are the creative partners of BigArtTO, which features free access to more than 200 hours of artworks projected onto local buildings and landmarks. The project is planned in each of Toronto’s 25 wards and is part of the city’s ShowLoveTO initiative.

“What’s special about it is that it’s a community-building exercise,” Ms. Lopez said. “It’s about how we can be connected and be outside safely. We can still have these amazing visual experiences that can make these emotional connections happen, we just have to transport them. We can feel together even though we can’t touch.”

John Tory and David Agnew
Toronto Mayor John Tory launches BigArtTO in front of Odeyto while President David Agnew looks on.

Since graduating from Seneca’s Visual Effects for Film & Television graduate certificate program more than 10 years ago, Ms. Lopez and Mr. Narvaez, who are married, have been working around the world to light up one building at a time.

All that stopped when COVID-19 hit.

“The art industry is one of the most severely affected sectors,” Ms. Lopez said. “What we are doing is not only a pivot, it’s also a response to create a canvas for artists in an open environment with safe distancing measures. It’s about how projection can create these intimate spaces for public art instead of bringing people together in a huge crowd.”

The BigArtTO launch site at Seneca’s award-winning Odeyto building featured a large-scale projection of Wawatay, an animated short film produced in the Animation Arts Centre by Illustration students and Indigenous storytellers Ben Kicknosway and Morgan Kagesheongai, who worked with faculty member Neil Affleck.

Since it was produced as part of a Seneca remix that premièred at Nuit Blanche two years ago, Wawatay has garnered much attention, including winning Best Animated at the Montreal First People’s Festival last summer.

Wawatay projected on Odeyto

Wawatay, an animated short film produced in Seneca’s Animation Arts Centre, is projected onto the Indigenous centre Odeyto at Newnham Campus during the launch of the city’s BigArtTO initiative.

To showcase Wawatay on the side of Odeyto, running on a loop, Ms. Lopez and Mr. Narvaez built a 3D model of the building structure and custom-created a template with the exact measurements so animation and graphic content would be projected to fit the facade of the canoe-like structure perfectly.

“This film is perfect with high contrast,” Ms. Lopez said. “It was already so well made and we didn’t need to do too much to showcase it. Also, the artistic community at Seneca is so tightly knit, everything came together smoothly.”

Mark Jones, Chair of the School of Creative Arts & Animation, says it’s an honour for Wawatay to be the première project for BigArtTO, projected on the Odeyto building.

“It looks great and lends itself well to this kind of format because of its impressionistic approach,” he said. “You can watch the film starting at any point in the narrative and still pick up aspects of its story. Having it run on a loop means that you can watch it repeatedly and get more from the piece the more you see it.”

Wawatay runs at Newnham Campus until Saturday, Sept. 19, from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. each night. It is also available to watch on Vimeo.