Encounters with public art illuminate the journey through the urban core. The stunning portraiture of the installation north of ICE District — in reality, 10-metre high concrete LRT vents transformed into art — bring a rare touch of authenticity to the edge of a district known for flash more than substance. Coaxing a noble past into a difficult present, the huge portraits — painted by Lacey Jane Wilburn and Layla Folkmann — gaze into you. This is their ground you’re walking on.
It is also a reminder of a recent clash of economic cultures. In peak-pandemic months, millionaire hockey players were bubbled out of sight in Ice District, cohorts hidden from view by tarps and temporary plastic walls, away from the gaze of the houseless populace immediately adjacent to the arena. Now, instead, this set of large murals elevates the people of the street. We may not immediately recognize the faces, but we should: They are as much a part of our downtown as the light that reflects between glass walls. This was, after all, their neighbourhood long before ICE moved in.