Media Release: Public Art Across Ontario Honoured with I HeART Main St Awards

Presented in partnership with RBC Royal Bank, STEPS Public Art is thrilled to announce the winners of the I HeART Main Street Challenge!

Photo Credit: May Shi

STEPS provided free curatorial, logistics and promotional support through their I HeART Main Street program to 26 Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) and 50+ artists who produced public art along commercial main streets, including murals, street furniture, and storefront activations, resulting in $94,000 paid to Ontario artists/designers.

Three BIAs and 6 artists were selected to receive financial and other support to scale placemaking initiatives through a review process that included an Awards Committee with cultural community representatives. Associate and Committee Member Keith Francis reflected, “In our most vulnerable state; art provides a ray of hope and optimism even within events of uncertainty, giving art the power to transform, uplift, and beautify in the worst of times.” 

Celebrating Queer Black Lives, produced in partnership with NIA Centre for the Arts and LOMA, speaks to the connectivity of love and is an homage to honour queer black femmes. Mural creator Curtia Wright shared, “Art galleries can feel exclusionary for some people whereas public art is more accessible and less intimidating to engage with.” This installation, alongside revitalized picnic tables by Leone McComas, earned Toronto’s Oakwood Village BIA the Community Engagement Award.

Artists Mahmood Hosseini and Marie-Judith Jean-Louis painted benches and removable pollinator panels that prompt visitors to Mississauga’s Clarkson Village to think about their relationship with the community and local environment. Innovative Award winner Clarkson Village BIA shared, “Before participating in the program, our area had no public art. People are happy to see colour introduced through such meaningful artwork!”

An illustrative series by Jennifer Ilett and Sophie Paas-Lang transformed vacant storefronts in Timmins, inspired by this northern Ontario community. Cindy Campbell from Downtown Timmins BIA noted, “The artwork brightened and attracted people to our area” earning them the Transformational Award.

STEPS is a Canadian-based public art organization that fosters dynamic and inclusive communities through one-of-a-kind art initiatives. Learn more about their main street supports and I HeART Main Street program, supported by the Canada Healthy Communities Initiative funded by the Government of Canada, Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, and funding by the Government of Ontario. Explore the STEPS Public Art App and follow @STEPSPublicArt.

Special thanks to this year’s Award Committee Members

Keith Francis, Associate and Senior Director of Experience Outcomes at Forge Media + Design

Dina Graser, Chair at Toronto Arts Council

Jill Andrew, MPP

Ann Pennicooke, Supervisor, Community Engagement (PAMA)

Hiba Abdallah, Assistant Professor at University of Toronto

Stefan Hancherow, Associate Art Curator at RBC

This summer’s I HeART Main Street, presented in partnership with RBC Royal Bank and ShowLoveTO produced by the City of Toronto, is generously supported by the Canada Healthy Communities Initiative funded by the Government of Canada, Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, funding provided by the Government of Ontario, and Ontario Trillium Foundation for activations in Peel Region.

I HeART Main Street funder and supporter logos (RBC, City of Toronto, Canada Healthy Communities Initiative, Government of Canada, Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, Province of Ontario, Ontario Trillium Foundation
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