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For the Culture: Community Collaboration & Empowerment

September 22, 2021

So much more than just a thrift shop, our Salvation Army Thrift Store locations across the country are proud to be an integral part of our communities. This is especially true of our downtown Hamilton Thrift Store at 250 King St. East in Ontario, where we have been serving Hamiltonians for over two decades and participating in many community initiatives alongside our neighbours.

In 2019, local artist Lester Coloma created a vibrant mural on the west side of the building, paying homage to the downtown area’s history as well as the work of The Salvation Army. Now, two years later, we are honoured and excited to unveil a new mural on the building’s east side that speaks to where our organization is today and where we strive to be tomorrow as we continue to work towards diversity, inclusivity, and empowerment for all.

We spoke with Kayla Whitney from Koe Design, the artist who spearheaded this community project, to learn more about how the mural came to be, the collaborative effort of the artists behind the art, and the inspiring message they hope it delivers to the Hamilton area for many years to come.

Q. Who are the artists that brought this mural to life?
A. We have two lead artists – Tandeka Tremblay and Aichoucha Haidara.

They designed the mural in its entirety and also painted the mural with mentorship assistance from myself. We also brought in an experienced muralist, Leone McComas, to paint with us for two days at the beginning of the project! We also have had countless contributions from community members and donors without which this mural could not have happened.

Q. How did this project begin?
A. This project was originally conceived of in summer 2020 to address racial inequality in our society.

As the project was defined we began to focus on racial inequality within the public art scene. Our goals with the For The Culture mural are to inspire a new generation of public artists that is intersectional and inclusive and also to create space for, and awareness of, BIPOC artists who are currently trying to make it in the Hamilton public art scene. We hope that by creating this huge mural, over 100 ft. long, designed by two Black artists and painted by four women, we can pave the way for a more diverse and inclusive public art scene here in Hamilton.

Q. Can you speak about some of the community partnerships that are involved in the mural?
A. One of the goals of this project was to engage with youth and aspiring artists in the community.

We wanted to create a pathway to inspire and uplift the next generation of public artists. Empowerment Squared, which is located just around the corner from the mural, runs an arts camp for newcomer and racialized children and youth and we felt it was a perfect fit to invite them to come paint with us as part of their program! We had children ages 5-8 come paint with us one evening, and then a few days later youth ages 10-12 came and added some finishing details with us. They were all so talented and added such a good energy to the mural!

Q. What message do you hope resonates with the community when they see the mural?
A. This mural was made for the community and was funded by the community, so in that way it is very much a part of the community.

We have had such a wonderful, enthusiastic response from people as we are painting – people of all types show up and walk the full length of the wall exclaiming their excitement about this project! We have been so lucky to be able to experience that type of feedback as we work.

Most importantly this mural is about representation of Black culture, excellence and joy and we hope that that message seeps into the heart of the community when they pass by this work each day.


We chose to create a mural that we feel is a celebration of the Black diaspora across the globe. In the design, we used multiple symbols that pay homage to Black people from diverse cultural backgrounds.

The mural is divided into 3 sections, with the left side focused on celebrating Black culture. The floral designs represent the flowers of the Carribean and Southern Africa. We demonstrated multiple illustrative styles throughout the mural and brought all of them together in our floral display.

The peacock is a representation of West African religions and cultures that are shared amongst lndigenous Africans and people of African descent. Despite the distance, we still have shared traditions. We also decided to add a swallow tailed hummingbird, which is the National bird of Jamaica.

We chose to include a traditional Malian pattern called BogolanFini. For the mural, we simplified the design and included other symbols. The pattern is typically made using colours created from earth minerals. We wanted to play with the contrast of the vibrant rainbow Zebra next to the more muted earth tone pattern. Our rainbow zebra is to show our love and support to our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters, who face many of the same hardships as BIPOC.

Our centrepiece is a Black woman. She portrays elements of identity from African, American and Caribbean culture to display the unity and strength of our cultures together. Her glasses reflect the history of Blacks in Canada.

On the right side of the design, we showcased inventions and musical contributions by Black people. A disco ball and piano keys signify the funk and soul era. We decided to include the guitar because it is an instrument that is used in music across the globe and can be seen as a musical instrument that connects us all. Stickers on the guitar and the capoeira outline represent some of the musical styles and societal contributions Black culture has created.

This piece is For the Culture. To celebrate our heritage, reflect on our history and share the Black Excellence that has shaped the path that will one day lead us to true equality, worldwide.


Tandeka Tremblay

Tandeka Tremblay is a graphic designer and illustrator from Montreal who now happily calls Hamilton home. She is first generation Canadian, with parents from Jamaica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean.

Her family moved to Florida as she began her freshman year in high school and Tandeka quickly realized how incredibly different things were in the South. Not readily accepted by her peers for being too shy, too awkward and too foreign with that Canadian accent, she struggled to find her position – until Art Club.

Art Club provided a safe haven of creative freedom, expression and like-minded weirdos who wanted to draw out their feelings. This experience fused art and creativity into her life as a permanent fixture and she eventually found her voice through elements of juxtaposition, typography and layered hidden meaning.

It has guided her through a 15-year long career of logo making, promotional print pieces and mural design from Tampa to Toronto.

Aichoucha Haidara is an artist and designer from Timbuktu, Mali. She is currently based in Hamilton, Canada and she uses her skills to create artworks that are often afrocentric in theme.

Upon moving to Canada, she discovered her passion for painting with oil and ever since, she has been honing her skills in portrait painting. Her main subject matter is women of African descent and her life experience. She uses those as inspiration to speak on issues that she faces as an immigrant and as a minority. 

Aichoucha Haidara

The intention behind her work is to talk about what she notices in her surroundings and to express them in a way she finds is meaningful.

Interested in a community project like this with your local Thrift Store? Please reach out to us at with your partnership ideas and we would be happy to discuss opportunities for collaboration.  Until then, see you at the Thrift Store!