A Métissée Franco-Ontarian artist Mique Michelle never expected her artwork would someday be displayed in a public library.
Timmins Public Library, which commissioned Michelle's painting, revealed the piece today.
The painting is called A Hub for Good Medicine. It can be found hanging in the fireside lounge of the Timmins Public Library’s main branch.
"I really hope we can let people be the identity they are and have a safe space and feel comfortable for who they are," Michelle said in an interview.
The artwork was inspired by conversations Michelle had at Living Space and around the community in 2019. When people have uncomfortable conversations that create change, progress will happen, she said.
“When you’re painting in the streets, on the walls, everybody would stop by. I’m used to certain cities where people would come up and scream at you assuming what you’re doing is illegal. In Timmins, it was nothing but love,” Michelle said. “Sometimes, I see things written online that don’t reflect that, concerning those communities. We concentrate more on their baggage than the human.”
The library commissioned the piece after seeing the impact Michelle’s murals had on the community.
Her murals can be spotted all around the city including the Timmins and District Hospital, city hall, the Timmins Flower Shop, Timmins Chamber of Commerce, Porcupine Advance and more.
‘’We’re so proud to display this lovely piece and we hope it resonates with the community. It is one small step towards our ongoing commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action continuing to promote inclusion in our spaces and initiating important conversations,” said the library’s CEO Carole-Ann Demers.
The painting was originally supposed to be a mural. With the pandemic, the project was delayed but the conversations continued to happen, Michelle said.
She rented a studio in Ottawa where she worked on the piece.
“I’ve done small paintings with spray paint but to do something at this level of professionalism and knowing it was going in a public library, I’ve never done that,” she said. “If you would've told me a couple of years back, 'You're going to be this graffiti artist doing stuff for a library,' I’d be like, ‘Yeah right.’”
A plaque with Michelle’s description of the painting is featured in French, English and Cree.
"How fortunate we are to be a hub for diverse communities to come here and create a home. They show up with knowledge, stories, and baggage. Some have been here before. We can choose to perceive that baggage as what we want," reads the plaque. "But when we choose not to see the human with the baggage, we can miss out on so much good medicine and create barriers to that human’s flourishing. Let’s create the best hub for good medicine.”
Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TimminsToday.com