The Steps Initiative, a Canadian-based public art organization that fosters dynamic, inclusive, and resilient communities through art initiatives and engagement strategies, has announced the launch of the I heART Main Street Art Challenge.
To support the city of Toronto and the culture that brings communities together, The Steps Initiative, along with the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), is offering artists and Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) the opportunity to increase feelings of trust and community through do-it-yourself (DIY) art installations.
More than 20 BIAs submitted requests for free public art coaching, artist introductions, fee subsidies, promotional support, and a chance to win prizes to scale their ideas over the pandemic recovery period.
The 42 new artworks were brought to life in collaboration with 25 local creatives; many of whom identify as emerging or Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) artists who have been impacted by a loss of income during the pandemic.
“The pandemic has changed our everyday life, but we can still appreciate art and being outdoors with others,” said Jieun June Kim, a participating artist.
“We believe placemaking has the power to help revitalize our main streets, and plays a vital role in a holistic, local economic recovery plan,” said Tasneem Bandukwala, Gerrard India Bazaar BIA.
Activations are as diverse as the communities hosting them, including locally inspired sidewalk decals (Downtown Yonge, Fairbank Village, Danforth Mosaic); temporary ground murals (Leslieville); window exhibits with illustrated stories of local BIPOC community members (Riverside); painted benches (Port Credit); and cultural walks (Gerrard India Bazaar and Cabbagetown).
“In collaboration with two Asian-Canadian artists, we’re adding beauty to the local experience and celebrating the unique culture of the area,” said Lucia Huang, Chinatown BIA.
For Natalie Hart with Malton BIA, hosting a crosswalk mural and other artwork near Westwood Square, “the Art Challenge is a way of bringing hope, vibrancy, and beauty to our gathering places.”