• By: Luke Barry

Local artist turns lockdown sketch into lasting tribute

For many creatives, the inspiration for their art reflects the reality of life around them.

In the case of local illustrator and muralist Dom Laporte, a trip through South East Asia cut short due to the novel coronavirus is now enshrined as a tribute to front line workers.

Laporte’s ten panel, 5’ by 42’ mural located just south of McArthur Avenue along Vanier Parkway began as a ballpoint sketch during his mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival back home in Canada.

“We flew back when Trudeau was basically saying that everyone should come home, so we ended up in Hawkesbury at my girlfriend’s mom’s place to quarantine,” he said. “So that was when everything was hitting hard, everyone was on lockdown, so I was just drawing a lot.

“It was a way for me to pay some respect, but also get a little bit of work and basically just try to survive myself and see what I could do this year.”

While the focal point is the masked health care worker, Laporte also included illustrations of the Chateau Vanier condo towers which the mural is nestled under, as well as the Montfort Hospital, an ode to the long-standing mural his piece replaced.

“When the Ottawa Citizen was here last week, a paramedic was stopped at the light right here and they were taking a look at it as he was taking photos, so I was like okay they’re seeing it,” Laporte said. “They drive by here everyday, so I think it’s getting absorbed at least.”

Nathalie Carrier, executive director of the Quartier Vanier Business Improvement Area, said the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

“We love it, we think it’s a great addition to our community,” she explained. “Everything we do at the BIA has been, through the past three years, to drive a local, cultural economy and to hire the artists that live and work locally and really start bettering the walkability of our community which inevitably helps out businesses.

“Obviously the subject matter is great, but I think the very nature of how it came about and how it happened is a story in and of itself.”

Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury echoed similar praise for Laporte’s latest streetscape.

“Art really speaks to the realities of time or emotions or perspectives,” he said. “I love murals, they certainly add a lot to the character of a neighbourhood.

“I’m glad to see the use of that parking wall, that concrete wall continue. It’s great to have a mural set up for the period we’re in that reflects the anxiety, the hope and the appreciation for our front line workers.”

The artwork is a product of the Quartier Vanier BIA’s “What’s Good in the Hood” microgrant program which is designed to help the community showcase its artistic and cultural talents.

Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the City of Ottawa, the Vanier Community Association, Muséoparc Vanier and the Chateau Vanier Residents Association, Laporte’s show of gratitude will shine on for years to come.