Originally posted on CBC News [VIDEO]

Ottawa students imagine life after the pandemic in new art gallery mural

A group of Ottawa elementary school students, including Ayla Jahani, each contributed work to a new mural at the Ottawa Art Gallery, exploring what they hope the future looks like once the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

Equipped only with paints and brushes, a group of Ottawa elementary school students was asked to create a time machine to whisk them into the future. The world they’ve envisioned has flying cars, space portals — and no COVID-19.

The mural was created by students in grades 3 and 4 at Viscount Alexander Public School as part of MASC’s Awesome Arts program. It’s now hanging at the Ottawa Art Gallery. (Michel Aspirot/CBC)

“I’m just hoping I can travel to the future,” said Ayla Jahani, 9. “I hope there’s no pandemic.”

The nine- and 10-year-olds, in grades 3 and 4 at Viscount Alexander Public School in Sandy Hill, received the art supplies so they could each create their own vision at home.

Their individual work has been assembled into a colourful mural titled The Future Awaits, now hanging at the Ottawa Art Gallery (OAG). The gallery is currently closed due to pandemic restrictions.

Nine-year-old Ayla Jahani’s colourful contribution. (Ayla Jahani.)

Artist Claudia Salguero led a series of virtual workshops with the students, teaching painting skills and inspiring each of them to use their imagination to create a work representing hope for the future. 

Salguero said she was happy to discover that even after more than a year of lockdowns and disruption, the kids remain optimistic about what’s coming next. 

“They see the future as a beautiful thing,” said Salguero. “They see light, they see colours, they see technology, they see freedom.”

A screenshot of artist Claudia Salguero before a projection of the mural The Future Awaits. (Claudia Salguero)

The mural project was sponsored by the MASC Awesome Arts program, an Ottawa-based organization that brings artists, musicians and theatre arts performers into schools and community centres.

Kids coping through art

Evie Reid, 9, said creating art has helped her cope with the pain of missing classmates and relatives during the pandemic.

“It helps me a lot mentally to express myself through art,” said Reid, who’s looking forward to seeing the finished mural when the OAG is finally allowed to reopen.

Evie Reid, 9, says making art helps her express her feelings in difficult times like these. (Jessa Reid)

Jahani said the best part was getting her hands dirty.

“The reason I like making art is, first of all, it’s messy,” she said. “I got to express myself, and I’m not kidding — I used a lot of layers and splotches of paint.” 

She said the cleanup was appealing, too.

“It also feels good to peel paint off of your hands,” she said. “That feels so satisfying.”

‘When I do art it really makes me happy,’ Reid said. (Evie Reid)

Jahani agreed that being apart from her classmates has been difficult, so her vision of the future has no coronavirus — though it does contain a warning about environmental damage caused by human activity.

The mural, along with individual pieces by each student, will remain on display at the OAG until September when it will be installed outdoors near their school.


Sandra Abma is a veteran CBC arts journalist. If you have an event or idea you want to share, please do at sandra.abma@cbc.ca.