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Billy Bishop Airport showcases Indigenous artwork by Sheridan Illustration student

Newsroom authorby Meagan KashtySep 27, 2023

roma poses in front of artworkA Sheridan student is set to have her artwork seen by the approximately three-million passengers Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport welcomes each year. 

PowerON Energy Solutions, a subsidiary of Ontario Power Generation, that supports large-scale electrification projects, recently completed the installation of a new infrastructure to charge electric shuttle buses at Billy Bishop. These buses connect Billy Bishop Airport passengers, employees and community members from Union Station to the downtown airport. 

PowerON Energy Solutions commissioned Roma Maré, a third-year student studying in Sheridan’s Bachelor of Illustration program to create the featured artwork for the main terminal charge.  

The infrastructure’s site is on the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples, in a city that is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis people. With the chargers installed in a highly visible area in front of the airport’s main terminal, PowerON felt it was essential to use the location as a platform to connect the visitors that travel through the airport with the history and culture of the Indigenous community. 

Commission statement on artworkPowerON was introduced to Roma through Caitlin Laforme, Culture & Events Coordinator at Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. Maré, a Mississauga (Anishinaabe)-Azorean (Portuguese) artist and a member of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, was keen to contribute.  

Together, Maré, Laforme and the PowerON team brainstormed ideas and concepts throughout the summer, wanting to create a piece that reflected the history of the land, and the ways modern society continues to benefit from renewable resources. 

“This piece was very different from the artwork I usually do,” explained Maré. “Usually, I like to paint and render my work, but I wanted this to have a distinct Indigenous style. I wanted it to be clear what land we were on. And while [PowerON] gave me some initial direction and feedback, they didn’t give me any restrictions – ultimately, the final artwork was what I wanted it to be.” 

The final result features an eagle at its centre flying over the Toronto skyline. The Eagle serves as the primary totem for the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, and is known for its keen sight, ability to fly great distances, and swift delivery of messages. 

“I referenced the flag of the Mississauga Credit because that’s where I’m from,” Maré said. “I wanted to show the connection to the culture I’ve been raised in, as well as the connection between people and nature. Airlines and travel are a way for people to see new places, and appreciate new cultures, and that’s what I wanted to convey in the piece.” 

“I wanted to show the connection to the culture I’ve been raised in, as well as the connection between people and nature. Airlines and travel are a way for people to see new places, and appreciate new cultures, and that’s what I wanted to convey in the piece.”

– Roma Maré
Further detail in the artwork is meant to showcase the importance of natural resources. The blue lines, for example, represent OPG’s 66 hydroelectric power plants across 24 river systems, while the green line threading through the city represents the emissions-free electricity that powers modern life. 

Text in the artwork – “weweni bi’baayaak” and “biwaabmishnaang miinwaa” — translates to “good travels” and “come see us again” in the Ojibwe language of Anishinaabemowin. 
Joe Morse and Roma Mare

“Ultimately, at Sheridan we hope that our students will go out into the world as artists with a clear vision, confident in the strength and value of their stories,” said Joe Morse, program coordinator and professor in Sheridan’s Bachelor of Applied Arts – Illustration program. “To have Roma’s artwork showcased at Billy Bishop — a place truly representative of exploration and appreciation of new cultures and spaces — is nothing short of incredible.” 

Maré’s work was unveiled on September 25 at an event attended by Stacey LaForme, Chief of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation; Todd Smith, Minister of Energy; Warren Askew, Vice-President of Operations of Ports Toronto; Jennifer Quinn, Chief Operating Officer at Nieuport Aviation; and Keegan Tully, Managing Director of PowerON. 

 

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