Youth-inspired mural revealed in Picton

HONOURED AND PROUD Tomas Del Balso stands before the finishes product of The Community Youth Mural Project which was funded by The Ontario Trillium Foundation. (Desirée Decoste/Gazette staff)




Friday was a cool and crisp, beautiful Fall morning in Picton to make the perfect backdrop for the grand reveal of The Roc’s Community Youth Mural Project located on the rear wall at the Circle K convenience store at 3 Paul St.

The fruits of Friday’s reveal were planted as seed in 2017. The ROC received a three-year Grow Grant from The Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) and part of the grant was used for the Community Youth Mural, a 16-week project where the Roc worked with Prince Edward County (PEC) Arts Council member Tomas Del Balso, a Cherry Valley resident for the past four and a half years, and the artist behind the mural. 

The youth at The ROC voluntarily participated in workshops with Del Balso and continued through the pandemic through online discussions and art submissions to come up with a finished product and shows how the youth view living in Prince Edward County.

“It’s all about communities coming together and partnering,” stated Bay of Quinte MPP Todd Smith. “Organizations like the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board and our Director of Education  Sean Monteith and our trustee Alison Kelly who I know has a lot of ties here with The ROC but it’s that kind of leadership in the community as well partnering with grassroots individuals that really do make things happen.”

Over the part three years, The OTF Grow Grant has provided the ROC with vital support in its programs for youth facing barriers in our community, including volunteer opportunities and assuming leadership roles.

The Priority outcome for this grant was to “have more youth meaningfully engaged in our community.” The painted mural behind Circle K is one example of how The Roc is positively impacting and engaging youth in this community. Youth were mentored by a local artist entrepreneur, gaining artistic skills, self-expression and self-confidence. The mural was a first-time art experience for many of The ROC’s young people.

“I have a huge binder full of their drawings so, in a sense when we arrived at this final image it was sort of derived from all our ideas we had already been through,” Del Balso said. “So the farming, the animals, fishing, the water, the harbour, the history of The ROC and the Regent and just basically took all of that and created a list of ideas and tried to work with them to see what they came up with and when we finally compiled the drawing design, I just based it off of that really and it just came together.”

Other opportunities this grant has provided over the years includes participation in the Community Gardens Project, Creation of The Youth Advisory Committee and County Care Kits, to name a few. These events and activities over the past three-years show amazing growth in Roc programs, increase in youth membership and retention numbers and the growth in The ROC’s community partnerships.

“Your giving kids an opportunity to get some volunteerism and employment and getting the counselling and supports they need,” MPP Smith stated. “But I think most importantly just have a friendly, welcoming, inclusive environment where everyone can come together and feel like one big family.”

Mayor Steve Ferguson expressed how the mural will liven up its space and how the municipality is trying to engage the youth of PEC.

The Community Youth Mural Project.(Desirée Decoste/Gazette staff)

“This mural really does liven up this section of Market Lane. It’s wonderful for the kids and Tomas (Del Balso) to visualize this mural and receive the cooperation of Circle K to allow this to be painted, it’s really well done,” expressed Mayor Ferguson. “Municipally we are trying to engage our youth in municipal operations so we’ve done a great deal of outreach to the schools, we’ve had class trips in to Shire Hall to participate in council meetings and that sort of thing but we’re also very supportive of the arts not just the academics and I’m a big believer in the arts and the arts community because art really does make us what we are, doesn’t it?”

Del Balso expressed how it was key to have the element of bright color in this mural and how he’s a lead from behind kind of person.

“I’m more of a lead from behind type of person where I say ‘we’re going to draw things about the county’ and that’s the extent of my guiding and then we just do it,” said Del Balso “Youth know what they want to do and they just do it. Simplicity is key. I do a lot of water color paintings and I like washed out kind of colors and saturated colors but obviously to really emphasize the relationship the youth have to the community I really used my brighter side, my rich pallet and it became key to have the element of bright colors in this mural. And also knowing the sun is really harsh on paintings and it will start to fade rather quickly even after we protect it and stuff from what I would say so real rich saturation at first and it will really keep its color longer I think.”

“This Fall The ROC is celebrating our 20th year of operations,” added Darlene Thompson, Executive Director of The ROC. “We look forward to promoting this milestone virtually. There are many community agencies and individuals responsible for the success in our youths lives and some of our supporters are here today.”

Thompson went on to thank and recognize the United Way of Hastings & PEC, The County Foundation and The Municipality for their support over the many years. The PEC Art Council, The Media, The Roc Board Chair Thomas Harrison and Vice Chair Michael Smith, Director of Education for HPEDSB Sean Monteith and Aaron Miller OPP. In closing Thompson also thanked MPP Todd Smith and The Ontario Trillium Foundation for their funding support over the past three years with a special thank you to the Circle K owner Usama Labib for his generous donation of the space for the mural.

“You guys do a fantastic job at The ROC and I know the Trillium Foundation was really, really excited about the opportunity to spend some of their money and invest in you,” MPP Smith stated. “and we’re seeing very, very colorful results. So on behalf of the provincial government, Premier Ford and our entire team and The Ontario Trillium Foundation thanks for everything your doing in PEC, particularly here in the downtown Picton area, to make an inclusive, warm environment were we can really come together and really have a great time and get the support you need.”

For more information on The ROC please visit