Wearing a black apron, Christian Carrizo shows Christian Alevedo, Kaleb Nquyen and Joshua Felix (left to right) some shading tips. Photo by Evan Boudreau

St. Jude’s anti-drug murals to be showcased on TTC

By 
  • April 28, 2012

On April 20 as thousands across North America protested anti-drug laws by smoking pot, Grade 8 students at St. Jude Catholic School picked up paintbrushes to promote a different drug message — say no.

“It’s sheer coincidence but, to a certain extent, what better day to work on a project like this than a day a large part of society is raising that level of acceptance,” said Nick Biagini, St. Jude’s principal. “It helps them to become aware of the dangers of drugs, even drugs that they feel are light. They can become gateways for other more addictive drugs.”

Made possible by Arts For Children and Youth’s (AFCY) Youth X Press program, the project included 72 grad-year students.

They collaborated to produce six anti-drug murals to be displayed on the outside of  Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) buses. Canvasses for the young artists, which were original advertisement panels, were donated by the TTC.

Although the idea sounds simple enough there is a twist which added a challenge for Christian Carrizo, an artist from AFCY who worked with the students. 

“This was specifically difficult for me because it’s a touchy subject,” said Carrizo, whose AFCY school projects more regularly depict nature rather than narcotics.

“Conveying an anti-drug message without using negative imagery, or something as cliche as a weed leaf with an X through it, is tricky.”

But for this project, Carrizo wasn’t the lead designer. The 31-year-old professional artist took on the role of student helper.

“On the first day, I spent the first half of the day having discussions with all the kids at the same time, just trying to get their ideas,” said Carrizo. He then let the student designers start drawing. “We pieced together all the drawings, trying to include everyone’s little bits here and there.”

Many students, such as Joshua Felix, had never picked up a brush before. That’s where Carrizo came in. “He’s a good teacher. He’s helping us with painting and he knows what he’s doing,” said Felix, while taking a break from shading an angel’s wings. “Making it look the same, like the colour, can sometimes be difficult because it’s so many people working on something. It’s different looking because some people paint differently.”

Despite some minor inconsistencies, Carrizo said the objective was met.

“They do convey the message.”

Eventually these artworks will tour the city on the sides of buses, but not before they are put on display during Catholic Education Week at the school’s 3rd Annual Spring Art Exhibit on May 10.

“They wanted them that week, May 8 to 13, but they’ve decided to let us keep them to exhibit them to our community,” said Biagini. “They also allowed us to choose the routes for two weeks.”

Their choice was easy. They selected the 165 Weston Road North route, on which a bus passes the school about every 15 minutes during the day.

“The kids will be able to look out the window and see their paintings,” said the principal, who admitted he’ll be seeking a peek from his office too.

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