Our children have grown up with it. We pass by it to fall in and out of love. We see it when we eat, shop, drop kids ,walk , ride and drive.…and it never gets tired, old or outdated. The iconic Cabbagetown mural by artist Ryan Dineen is now 20 years old.
When people think of Cabbagetown, they think of beautiful old homes, the farm and a mural. No matter how many pictures of goats or Victorian homes, there is one universally recognizable image representing Cabbagetown; the mural.
We only thought we should learn more about this mural, the artist, and its impact on the community. It is the mural that launched the mural craze. A mural so good that many communities said we want one of those. Even after they got their own many still say they want theirs to be more like Cabbagetown’s. Is it the colours, the organic emotion, love and joy of the image? Yes. Anybody can paint a wall, but capturing joy and love and splendour the way our mural does in such a positive way is something unique. We have been lucky to pass by it daily for the last 20 years. It is also the 20th anniversary of the mural. I know. Has it only been 20 years??
In the year 2000, a young 18-year-old artist, and local Cabbagetown resident, named Ryan Dineen was commissioned to do the mural at the corner of Carlton and parliament by the B.I.A. Often photographed and Instagrammed, this mural is prolific on the internet. There are few images in the city that people instantly recognize and know the location. In 2021 with so much street art everywhere, it isn’t easy to know what neighbourhoods other murals represent. Not this mural; it set the bar of murals and remains one of the most recognizable in the city.
The 18-year-old Dineen is now 38 and an extremely accomplished artist. Big surprise. We spoke with Ryan about what it was like to get such a commission at such a young age and how the heck did he pull it off?
You grew up in Cabbagetown..what was that like ?
“There were tons of kids around, I had three younger siblings so it was always a madhouse. The neighbourhood was a bit grittier than it is now but there was always something to do.”
When did the painting get done?
“About 20 years ago, I was 18.”
You were 18. Had you done something this big before??
“I had done similarly scaled murals prior.”
How did that come to be?? did you get paid?
“At the time, the city was offering every B.I.A. to match funds put up for community murals. I applied to every B.I.A. in the city and landed three of them, including Cabbagetown.”
What is the painting called??
“I call it the Cabbage mural, but I’ve heard other people call it the Enchantress and recently two lovers. It was never officially titled.”
What inspired you to do that image??
“When my mural partner Alex Bacon and I were coming up with the design, we went through one of his old illustration books. We found one of a couple in a farmland scene, and we remixed it into a graffiti style which we were into at the time, but also keeping a historical feel to it.”
What does it mean to you?
“To me personally, it reminds me of how into murals I was at the time. I had done big murals before, but this was one of my first contracts where I lead the whole project.”
Have you had to do any repairs?? it has lasted very well, did you do anything special to make it last so well?
“Over twenty years, I’ve done some minor repairs. Less than a handful of times – nothing major. Nothing special. It looks to me some of the brick needs to be restored, and we can look at refreshing the paint if the B.I.A. wants that done. (hint Cabbagetown B.I.A.)”
What other murals have you done??
“I’ve done hundreds of murals over the city. Cabbagetowners would know my mural on Chew Chew’s diner.”
You are a prolific artist now. Can you tell us about your new works and yourself as a highly acclaimed artist?
“My focus these days is primarily oil painting on canvas. I’ve been showing my work in galleries since 2008 and have been represented by Ingram Gallery in Yorkville since 2013.”
Publisher’s note. Ryans’ paintings are incredible and capture the beauty of the city. Many of them seem to feature many downtown east subjects.
Well worth the visit to his website and gallery.