Local artist adds a little colour to downtown pizza joint

Justice Sutherland wants everyone to connect to her art.

“Everyone’s learning. We are all in this together,” she said. “This is the Timmins community and we need to come together as the community.”

Sutherland has painted the Timmins Totem mural, which is front and centre as customers enter Sparks Pizza downtown Timmins. Sutherland spent Friday afternoon talking about the project and its impact.

“I love it. It helps other people to feel like they have an opportunity to show their work,” said Sutherland.

Owner Tim Jamieson said that he wanted something bright.

“I was trying to find somebody local, somebody from Timmins, so I called around and they were giving me people in Kirkland Lake, but no, I wanted someone in Timmins,” he said. “My artistic talent is pizza, cooking and that’s it, so I’m very happy that it wasn’t me drawing on the wall.”

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Sutherland's work blends local traditions with Hopi art styles from British Columbia.

“I grew up partly in Timmins and partly in Kelowna, B.C., and out there, the culture is so positive that I brought some of that with me,” she said. “When I moved back to Timmins and I had all this knowledge of different tribes around Canada, I wanted to implement more of a positive focused culture here in Timmins.”

She said reconnecting to her community and its arts and culture is heavily tied to her mother.

“Reintroducing tradition in my family is a longterm goal because I find especially with my mom, she didn’t get to meet her culture as she was raised in a different community,” she said. “So to be able to come back and relearn those traditions is healing for our whole family.”

Sutherland is a Fort Albany First Nation member. She wants to see more openness and celebration in the community, and art is a great way to do that.

“I knew I was native, but I didn’t know a lot about the culture here, I knew more about the culture out west, and all I can think about now when I’m older is how much I would love to have the culture and art to be focused here in Northern Ontario,” she said. “I’ve met so many beautiful artists and beautiful people here.”

Working with the owners at Sparks Pizza was a great experience for Sutherland.

“It was so nice of them to give me the space and the opportunity to showcase our culture here in Timmins,” she said.

Her real passion is getting youth involved in art and finding their voice.

“My main focus is to get the youth especially out in the open and feeling confident about their cultural work and put it out there,” she said. “Know that there are people who want to see it, and people are here to help our community if we allow them in.”

Jamieson said the work feels welcoming in the restaurant.

“It’s absolutely beautiful,” he said.

There is still space on the walls in Sparks Pizza and plans to invite other artists in to contribute.

“As funding becomes available,” he said. “I wanted to start with something bright up front, and Justice did a great job!”

Amanda Rabski-McColl, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,