'It's about having fun': N.L. youth group painting mural for Toronto subway system

A group in St. John's that helps youth overcome social and economic obstacles is working on an art installation that will be displayed in the Toronto subway system as part of the Canada 150 celebrations.

Members of the For the Love of Learning program are painting a mural in its space above the Bridges to Hope food bank on Cookstown Road.

When finished, the mural will be just one part of a larger cross-country art installation which will be displayed in a subway station in Canada's largest city.

Digital copies of the mural will also be displayed on more than 300 outdoor billboards across the country, as well as in a number of airports.

"It's more of a stylized view of St. John's," said Susan Parsons, who is overseeing the project.

"We're including codfish, icebergs, puffins, a whale, Cabot Tower, row housing and mummers. It's all going to be very, very bright."

Important work

One of the youth working on the mural is Matthew Walsh, a 19-year-old with autism who is working with the Autism Society, Newfoundland Labrador's Transitions Program at the Elaine Dobbin Centre.

Transitions is designed to provide an opportunity for youth and adults on the autism spectrum to discover interests and make connections in the community.

While drawing two puffins on the mural, Walsh told CBC that the design they're going for is an "atmospheric" one. He said he's proud to be part of the project and is enjoying it so far.

"It's not only challenging, it's about having fun," he said.

"They say Toronto is the most populated space in Canada, so it is really important to tell my friends and family that I worked on it."

Proud co-ordinator

Transitions Program co-ordinator Megan Marshall was holding back tears listening to Matthew's interview, saying he's come a long way since he first started the program.

"I'm welling up because I've almost spent a year working with Matthew and seeing him do so well and speak so eloquently and passionately means that I'm doing my job," she said.

"I'm just so proud of him."

The Choices for Youth mural group only have a few days to finish their part of the project, as it has to be submitted by April 1.