• Crowdsourced artwork

    Crowdsourced artwork shows different interpretations of Canadian identity. (Photo courtesy Canada’s Self Portrait)

Draw a quick sketch of what it means to be Canadian. That’s what artist Aquil Virani and Canada’s Self Portrait co-founder Rebecca Jones asked more than 800 people to do over the last year. The idea for the project was to reproduce all those images into a larger piece of art, which will be unveiled on Canada Day in Montreal. “We thought that art was a great way to explore that issue – to display visually the different perspectives that people have about Canadian identity,” Virani said last week. “It’s such a huge concept.” The individual drawings include stereotypical representations of Canada, such as two moose crashing into each other and apologizing. Another sketch depicts a beaver riding a Canada goose and brandishing a pair of hockey sticks over its head. There were also abstract illustrations of diversity and criticism of politicians and companies. “There were definitely submissions that were critical and we wanted that because we wanted the project to be authentic and honest, in a way that people would connect with it,” Virani said. “We didn’t want it to be too cheesy or to cover up the various problems that exist in Canadian society.” Last summer, after crowdfunding more than $2,000, Virani and Jones travelled to St. John’s, Newfoundland; Halifax and Vancouver, stopping at some places in between. They asked people to fill out their one-page handouts about what being Canadian means, to describe Canada in one word and to draw their sketch. Afterwards, they distributed the forms to schools and other organizations remotely. They now have submissions from all of Canada’s provinces and territories. The results varied. “You’re getting a range of opinions and perspectives about everything from safety to how clean Canada is, political views, multiculturalism… all these ideas come out in the submissions,” Virani said. The final piece, which integrates the drawings in Virani’s style, uses ballpoint pen and crosshatching to make the images stand out on Birchwood panels. Participants should be able to find their drawings in the art, although the drawings look unified, Virani said. The piece, roughly 0.9 by 1.8 metres, will be on display on Canada Day from 5-7 p.m. at Galerie Mile in Montreal. A documentary about the project will be screened at 5:30 pm, and will be made available on the project website in the evening.

Closer view of Virani's piece (Photo courtesy Canada’s Self Portrait)