By: Esther Lee

Photo Credit:  Stephanie Boutari.

UPDATE: Doors Open in Partnership with the Region of Waterloo produced this wonderful piece diving into Stephanie’s practice and some of her other notable works around the region.

A lot of thought goes into urban planning and into infrastructure, but we don’t often reflect on the aesthetic experience of our cities. Murals are a great way to transform the spaces we live and work in, creating welcoming and uplifting environments. We caught up with Stephanie Boutari, an artist whose murals are transforming spaces across Waterloo Region.

Why did you choose to base yourself in the Kitchener-Waterloo area? 

Well honestly I mean, that was where I started. I went to University of Waterloo and that’s where I studied architecture and spent a lot of time in Cambridge, so that was kind of where I developed a foundation and connected to the community. And I stayed because of those connections I made, and I felt that because it was growing so much and so much development was happening around me I didn’t feel the need to go elsewhere. So, for example, new startups moving in and having office spaces that need creative input, like a mural or other kinds of designs. 


There’s this unique intersection of tech and history in the region. How do you think this affects the art and culture scene? 

I just think it goes hand in hand like, when a city is lively and when it’s growing and has this connection to technology, I think naturally that means there’s a lot of creative thinkers and a lot of young, ambitious people so I just think they kind of complement each other. And I also think that art, it’s no longer just about painting a canvas anymore, the definition of that has really broadened and there’s a lot of digital art or even art projected on screens or digitally influenced art now so that’s connected to tech again. I just think that it’s so broad, and if anything, the more tech there is the more art there’ll be. 


How have you seen art transform the spaces around the city? 

I feel aside from just aesthetically beautifying places, it makes places seen. It creates this atmosphere and liveliness or tells a story and then people interact with those places or remember it, they might even refer to a public art piece when giving directions. I feel like art, especially in a public place can really act like a landmark, like one mural I did this summer. For this store, it was like a two story facade in this Portuguese store that had a long history. That location has been a market for probably over 100 years, but a lot of people didn’t really know what it was because it didn’t have much of a street presence or visible signage. The artwork, I think, really helped draw attention back to it, and it communicated through the design, you know, “oh this must be a place that specializes in seafood,” because I had all these fish in the design for example. 

What is the one mural people can’t miss? 

The one I previously mentioned in Kitchener, it’s for a Portuguese store called Torreense so it’s at the intersection of Sterling Avenue and Mill Street. The exterior facade of Deutschmann Law Office in Kitchener as well, because it’s pretty big and bold and colourful. And I think in Waterloo Factory Square it’s an office building but in the common area, like a lounge area, which is accessible to the public during regular work hours there, I did a mural that’s just like these giant colourful people walking. And I think it’s playful and people would enjoy posing in front of that or just kind of having fun with it. 


What’s your favourite coffee place? 

I really am a big fan of Show & Tell Coffee. It’s owned by two young guys, I think they’re from Kitchener. They’re so passionate about coffee and they know everything there is to know about it and I always learn something when I go there. It’s not this crazy fancy looking place, it’s got a very minimalist design but the coffee’s so good and whenever I’m in downtown Kitchener, I like to go there. Also, Matter of Taste, I’ve done a mural for them in their Waterloo location. They have a location in Kitchener and in Waterloo, and the Waterloo one’s in Factory Square actually. Their coffee is just amazing and they’re so friendly and the atmosphere is always welcoming and genuine. 

Esther Lee is a digital content specialist and storyteller, who strives for human connection through her work.