Neighbourhood Love is an initiative where local artists came together with the South Etobicoke community to make love visible through public murals. STEPS is honoured to support this initiative with artist honorariums and promotional opportunities.
Video by Selina McCallum.
In August 2020, a South Etobicoke resident commissioned Toronto artist Natalie Very B to paint a mural on a garage door for her children. Shortly after completion, the homeowner received two anonymous hateful letters condemning the mural and insulting the homeowner. She decided to share the letters with her neighbours via the South Etobicoke Community Facebook group, and was met with an outpour of support. The story gained more media attention when the Toronto Star covered the story.
Moved by the overwhelming amount of online support for the homeowner and their family, local artists, Natalie Very B, Julii McMillan, Bareket Kezwer and Julia Prajza, began organizing what they called a “street-level demonstration of love” to help make the online community support visible to the local community.
They circulated over 400 info sheets, 75 lawn signs, and countless posters for a call for wall spaces in the South Etobicoke community. As professional muralists, they offered to donate their skills to paint murals as a visible sign of solidarity for the homeowner. In only three short weeks, the phenomenal impact of Neighborhood Love brought together:
unique mural sites
community colouring pages donated to the public
“This is the most “pure of heart” project! There’s a lot of negativity (some warranted, some wildly unnecessary) circulating in the world and being a part of something uplifting truly gave me some control in adding a little more colour (literally and figuratively) in a darker world. Actively participating in something so wholesome was incredible!”
– Amber Ozols, artist
Together, Neighbourhood Love became a community united by love. They’ve sparked interest in public art, and started conversations, friendships, and connections during a time that challenges the traditional ways of coming together. Most importantly, they’ve demonstrated how to be the change they want to see in the world, turning a negative story into a overwhelmingly positive one!
Neighbourhood Love grew bigger than the organizers imagined, as the initiative received incredible support from local organizations and various community donations. The South Etobicoke community and beyond shared messages of encouragement, expressed gratitude, and offered help to expand the initiative.
“We are so excited and honored to be part of the Neighborhood Love initiative. We are filled with pride to live in a community that stands together to support our neighbours. What better way to show our love and support than to rise above and spread more color and beauty in our neighbourhood. Thank you artists!!”
– Morgan, South Etobicoke homeowner