"FROM PARKING LOT INTO A VIBRANT COMMUNITY HUB" is a community-engaged placemaking project that will transform a shipping container into a unique community space in Vanier. The goal of this project is to create a positive community space that will bring us all together once the world is back to normal again :)


From July 15 to August 15 residents of all ages, cultures and backgrounds were invited to share their thoughts to inspire the mural that will cover all four exterior walls of the container turning it into a piece of art. Community members were reached out through personal interviews, online submissions form, children's' art workshops and consultations with key stakeholders which included Vanier Community Association, Vanier BIA, Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health, Odawa Native Friendship Centre, Minwaashin Lodge and Boys and Girls Club.

As a result of this extensive work, we have received a very positive response from the members of the community who welcomed the idea of this new "container hub" and generously shared their stories about the neighbourhood with us. It has been humbling to hear so many beautiful heartwarming stories about family, friendship and neighbours coming together during the time of unrest to make each other lives a little bit brighter, a little bit happier. There were stories of many generations living in Vanier and even streets named after some of them; stories of finding a new home and starting a new life in here; stories of self-organized neighbours' street dance parties and super friendly kids' soccer league; stories of neighbours helping neighbours, caring and sharing with each other; stories of birth and death -  stories of life; stories of sounds - drum circles, church bells and neighbours music in the summer; stories of neighbours' collective love for ice-cream and excitement to hear the ice-cream truck's coming... These have been stories of humanity, love and care for one another.

Every single person spoke of how kind, caring of each other, generous and close-knit this community is. Every submission spoke of how diverse in all senses people who live here are. "Vanier is home to everybody. Here you find not only all colours, creeds and languages, but all different socioeconomic statuses. People here are literally from all walks of life." These two things - incredible diversity and exceptional friendliness of people were by far most noted "favourites" about the neighbourhood. Another favourite things people brought up were little winding streets, pretty little houses, community gardens, the proximity to nature and the river, as well as the city.

As for the positive images people thought about vibrant colours, people, sun, children, pets, flowers and butterflies. Strawberries were brought up as having a very special meaning in Indigenous cultures - known as "heart berry" they symbolize peace, forgiveness and teach how to maintain heartfelt relationships in our families and communities.

The nature of these contributions inspired a mural concept that would reflect it all. I thought of uniting things that were named as favourite about Vanier with people and their stories, in other words, create a tribute to all the layers that make this beautiful neighbourhood. This is how I came up with an idea of a "rainbow circle" - a rainbow is a very beautiful phenomenon adored by all cultures in the world and a modern symbol for inclusion and diversity, and there is no more inclusive shape than a circle - also a sacred symbol in many traditions around the world. 

MURAL CONCEPT: Layers of Vanier

Background: “rainbow circle” that goes around the container and represents all walks of life together, united. This layer also features all the "hardware" that makes up Vanier - little beautiful houses, winding streets, nature, the river and Ottawa core across the river.

The rising Sun in this design is greatly inspired by Ojibwe concept of "Wabano"- which in its simplest terms means the morning twilight - when night meets day. Ojibwe Elders say that this time is "thinner than a strand of hair, yet even in its brevity, it is the most powerful time—where the magic happens and new beginnings are possible."

The river here represents all the three rivers of Ottawa - which has sacred meaning to the host nation and remind us of the history of this place as a gathering place. And it literally gathers us all today here.

Foreground: people and their stories are line-drawings on top of the colourful background. People, in the end, are what makes Vanier unique :)

Colour Palette: rainbow colours, modern

Style: Children’s Book Illustration 

I thought of children's book illustration as the most accessible and inclusive style - as clearly people who live in Vanier today come very diverse backgrounds and cultures, but one thing that may unite us all - is that we all at some point were children. Plus, of course, this is a mural for a community hub that will host many family and children's events :)

Our painting is currently scheduled for the middle of September. Exact dates and times of community painting will be announced here later.


If you have ideas, comments or questions, please send them to atelier.alfergani@gmail.com. 



Lead Artist

P.S. And if you are curious, these are the community's responses harvested during the past four weeks:

We also have received some creative responses as a treat :) Please enjoy below. Vanier is truly a creative neighbourhood!

"This photo shows a young girl peering into a bucket attached to a maple tree being tapped for its syrup. I like to play with depth and unique frames in my images. I had been carefully lining up this photo, when suddenly the girl ran into the frame. I was quick to react and captured this spontaneous and inquisitive pose.


I took the picture in April 2019 during Vanier's Sugar Festival, which is put on annually by MuséoParc Vanier. Vanier's sugar bush is one of the few that are active in an urban environment.


The festival is one of my favourite events in our community. MuséoParc Vanier puts on many cultural activities in celebration of Vanier's unique and diverse heritage. It's also one of the earliest signs of spring where I look forward to the warmer days that lie ahead."

Caleb Ficner (@calebficner)

Vanier-based photographer


"I grew upin Vanier. My father Jacques Berlinguette still lives here in the same house since 1965. I wrote a poem about him..." 

Patsea Griffin, Thunderbird Sisters Collective

Daddy and the Window

With the fear of Covid-19

We protect what we hold dear

We visit with papa 

From the outside 

Through the large front window 


I remember as a child 


Against the back of the sofa 

Nose pressed against

That large front window 

Waiting for daddy to come home 

Always exciting to see him 

Pull in to the driveway

Get out of the car 

Maybe with treats 

Maybe Chinese food

Maybe with some news 


Jumping and shouting

Daddy’s home!

All five of us

In harmony 

Daddy’s home!

Must have driven my mother nuts

Mom was always happy

To see him too

She loved her Jack


Through the same window

I imagine him 

Silently watching 

Watching us leave the nest

One after the other

Silently hoping for the best


We’ve been staring 

In and out of that window 

For almost 60 years now 

Watched people come and go

Watched families grow

We’ve seen love and heartbreak

From that large front window 


I wonder

If he imagined all the joy

This place would see

It certainly outweighs the sorrow

As a young father 

I wonder 

What did he see 

When he stood 

At the large front window 

For the first time


When the house was empty 


Trying to decide 

Whether to buy or not to buy

A man of vision 

I bet he saw it all                        

Patsea, her daddy and the big window (Vanier, Ottawa, 2020)


Children participants of Vanier Community Service Centre programs expressed it through their own art:


And someone else reminded that he also lived in Vanier and "it holds a special place in his heart" ;)



This project is designed by community-engaged artist Kseniya Tsoy and Vanier Community Service Centre.

As part of Neighbourhood Arts Ottawa, a program presented by Arts Network Ottawa.

Funded by Ontario Trillium Foundation and the Ottawa Community Foundation.

With kind support of Vanier BIA and Vanier Community Association.

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© 2020 by al.fergani