I HeART Main Street 2021

Building on the success of the 2020 Main Street Art Challenge and in partnership with RBC Royal Bank and ShowLoveTO produced by the City of Toronto, STEPS presents this year’s I HeART Main Street to support Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) of all sizes, strengthen business-community relationships, and provide meaningful opportunities for local Canadian artists. Beginning in June 2021, 27 main streets across Ontario will be activated through unique outdoor public art installations that can be visited in person or virtually through an interactive app. Participating BIAs will have a chance to win prizes valued at $30,000 at the end of the summer to recognize exemplary projects.


Location: Various locations across Ontario

BIAs:  Albion Islington Square, Aldershot Village, Belle River – On the Lake, Burlington Downtown Business Association, Chinatown, Clarkson Village, Cooksville, Downtown Bench Beamsville, Downtown Brockville, Downtown Tillsonburg, Downtown Timmins, Downtown Whitby, DUKE Heights, Eglinton Way, Greektown on the Danforth, Kensington Market, Lakeshore Village, Leslieville, MarkeTo District, Mimico by the Lake, Mount Pleasant Village, Oakwood Village, Pape Village, Port Credit, Riverside, Trinity Bellwoods, Upper Village

Artists: Asli Alin, Curtia Wright, Danielle Hyde, Hyedie Hashimoto, Yasaman Mehrsa, Farida Zaman, Karun Ramani, Toko Hosoya, Justine Wong, Mahmood Hosseini, Marie-Judith Jean-Louis, Jennifer Ilett, Sophie Paas-Lang, Chris Perez, GETSO, FP Monkey, Jeannie Priscila, Adeyemi Adegbesan, Mel Hayes, Andre Kan, Andre Castro, Leone McComas, Steven Twigg, Rally Rally, Katrina Canedo, Bareket Kezwer, Yaara Eshet, Marcia Diaz Agudelo, Leone McComas, Jocelyn Kearns, Oksana Hawrylak, Aggie Armstrong, Ray Vidal, Rhonda Franks, Henry VanderSpek, Gabrielle Lasporte, Romana Kassam, Kayla Buium, Suharu Ogawa, Yaw Tony, Aidan Kenny, Vivian Rosas, Yen Linh Thai, Vesna Asanovic, Monica Wickeler, Sara Sarhangpour, Melika Saeeda, Ghazaleh Rastgar, and more!

Year: 2021

Services: Public Art Management, Creative PlacemakingMain Street Recovery


Canadian artists and designers paid for their work


Business Improvement Areas supported


Cities represented across Ontario


New app integration


We believe that Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) are the heart of our communities. Expanding on the success of last year’s Main Street Art Challenge and in partnership with RBC Royal Bank and the City of Toronto, STEPS is working with 27 BIAs across Ontario this summer to implement placemaking initiatives as part of their main street recovery strategy. From creative coaching and hiring local artists to create new public artwork, to implementing innovative ways to safely engage with the artworks with an upcoming launch of an interactive app, I HeART Main Street is helping BIAs foster trust and a sense of community through challenging times. This project is a great example of Ontario creative placemaking. 

Supports include:

  • Pro-bono creative placemaking and public art services
  • Connections to multidisciplinary artists and creatives
  • Artist fee subsidies
  • Audio-visual documentation
  • Promotional tools and public programming

Are you a BIA interested in activating your streets with STEPS? Learn more about the I HeART Main Street program and apply to the next round today!

Stay tuned as public artworks are installed all summer long in communities near you! Follow @stepspublicart and #MainStreetArtChallenge for the latest updates and announcements.

Download the STEPS Public Art App

New this year is the launch of the free STEPS Public Art mobile and web app to capture all of the public art projects across Ontario! Through this platform, visitors can experience the installations virtually, learn more about the participating BIA communities, and meet the local artists involved. As projects are rolling, the app will be updated regularly with new photos, videos, and fun walking tours to discover public artworks near you!

How to use the app:

  1. Visit the Discover button to explore the artwork either by artist, by BIA, or by region.
  2. Use the Explore button to find the BIA closest to you where you can experience the art.
  3. Click on the Regions button to see the different regions hosting art.
  4. Use the About button to learn more about the program and STEPS Public Art, contact STEPS, leave feedback and more.
  5. Don’t forget to Rate and Review on the App Store and Google Play to help spread the word!






Scan the QR code to download the app or visit the links below:

QR code that scans to the STEPS Public Art App via App Store or Google Play
June BIA Activations

Projects kicked off this summer as artists collaborated with Trinity Bellwoods, MarkeTo, Oakwood Village, Port Credit, Downtown Timmons, and Mount Pleasant Village to activate main streets through creative projects that ranged from murals to one-of-a-kind Muskoka Chairs!

Port Credit BIA

Artists Steven Twigg, Rally Rally and Katrina Canedo adorned six giant Muskoka chairs with artwork inspired by Port Credit’s picturesque scenery and emerging arts/music scene!

Oakwood Village BIA

Oakwood Village had two activations, including Celebrating Black Queer Lives, a public art mural by Curtia Wright, and painted picnic tables and benches by Leone McComas, to brighten up the streets all summer long!

Mount Pleasant Village BIA

The neighbourhood engaged with 37 artists to splash colour onto the main street with 37 uniquely painted street poles!

Artists: Andre Kan, Andre Castro, Andrea Rodriguez, Karen Roberts, Melika Saeeda, Naz Nahidi, Patty Wilkinson, Sydney Madia, Samantha Roe, Ted Hamer, Caitlin Taguibao, Wenting Li, Raymond Vidal, Anya Mielniczek, Asli Alin, Chrissy Kuiack, Julia Prajza, Si Yuan (Victor) Wei, Mazur, Robin Hesse, Talie Shalmon, Jeff Stirling, Yen Linh Thai, Jieun June Kim, Yasaman Mehrsa, Joan Lee, Ghazaleh Rastgar, Marg Cresswell, Esky Zadeh, Andy Schmidt, Brandon Baghaee, Kamila Love, Julia Antohi, Natalie Very B., Alejandra Paton, Jim Thierry Bravo, Curtia Wright

Trinity Bellwoods BIA

Artists Yaara Eshet and Marcia Diaz Agudelo designed sidewalk decals inspired by the wildlife and animals surrounding the Trinity Bellwoods Community to bring nature to the forefront.

MarkeTo BIA

MarkeTo’s vision of creating an even more vibrant community through public art resulted in teaming up with artist Mel Hayes to design bold and colourful sidewalk decals to highlight local businesses and encourage the community to take part in MarkeTo’s 10,000 step summer walking challenge!

Downtown Timmins BIA

For the first time, #MainStreetArtChallenge is traveling up north to Timmins! Artists Jennifer Ilett and Sophie Paas-Lang created large-scale posters to brighten up storefronts while celebrating the community’s active lifestyle and the great outdoors.

Photo Credit: Selina McCallum and Néné Fortier (Downtown Timmins)

I HeART Main Street 2021 (June Highlights) Video

Video Credit: Selina McCallum and Néné Fortier (Downtown Timmins)

July BIA Activations

Artists worked with Albion Islington Square, Chinatown, Riverside, Leslieville, Clarkson Village, Downtown Whitby, GreekTown on the Danforth and Lakeshore Village to bring one-of-a-kind public art activations to life. From series of ground murals and beautiful street light banners, ideas were endless to cultivate hope and energy as pandemic restricts began to lift across communities. 

Chinatown BIA

Artists Justine Wong and Toko Hosoya each painted murals for Chinatown’s two new community parkettes located at Chinatown Centre and the intersection of Chinatown and Kensington Market (Spadina and St. Andrew St.) that celebrate the nostalgia, resilience and cultures of the people in this iconic Toronto neighbourhood.

Riverside BIA and Leslieville BIA

In this joint BIA collaboration, Riverside and Leslieville’s Welcome (Back) to Main Street activation saw a series of 16 ground murals painted by artists Bareket Kezwer and Curtia Wright. Each mural welcomes back the community with the word “welcome” in different languages that can be found all along the main street in Toronto’s east end.

Downtown Whitby BIA

Downtown Whitby invited artists GETSO and Chris Perez to paint beautiful murals in the back patio of the Food and Art Cafe to make the alleyways more inviting and vibrant while solving the on-going issue of underutilized and unwelcoming spaces.

Lakeshore Village BIA

Artists Asli Alin, Yasaman Mehrsa, Hyedie Hashimoto and Danielle Hyde designed street light pole banners inspired by the waves of Lake Ontario and the community by the water. 

Albion Islington Square BIA

The BIA worked with Karun Ramani and Farida Zaman on fun sidewalk decals to build a sense of belonging and showcase captivating stories of local business owners.

Clarkson Village BIA

Clarkson Village BIA brought life and vibrancy to the community with the help of artists Mahmood Hosseini and Marie-Judith Jean-Louis in a series of colourful bench and landscaping box public art activations.

GreekTown on the Danforth BIA

In collaboration with STEPS, East End Arts and Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), Humans of the Danforth is an outdoor photo gallery by Henry VanderSpek showcasing 26 small business heroes along the Danforth. Experience the exhibit until September 5, 2021 and check out the walking tour via the STEPS Public Art app!

Photo Credit: Selina McCallum and May Shi (Albion Islington Square)

Video Credit: Selina McCallum and May Shi (Albion Islington Square)

August BIA Activations

Summer is winding down with more #MainStreetArtChallenge public art activations across Ontario! From Pape Village in Toronto to Burlington and Belle River, Ontario, participating BIAs and artists came up with colourful and impactful ideas to bring vibrancy to the local communities and businesses. 

Belle River - On the Lake BIA

Inspired by sunsets, sunrises, beaches and marinas, the BIA worked with artist Jocelyn Kearns on two stunning murals that can be found at local businesses in the main streets of Belle River.

Kensington Market BIA

Kensington Market BIA and artists Jeannie Priscila, Adeyemi Adegbesan (Yung Yemi) and FP Monkey livened vacant storefronts with one-of-a-kind street art!

Burlington Downtown Business Association

The BIA produced their first ever mural with artist Chris Perez to brighten the downtown core. Through a call for artist, this 700+ square ft. project was assisted by local Burlington artist Aidan Kenny.

Downtown Tillsonburg BIA

The main streets of Tillsonburg were filled with colourful revitalized 8 benches by Aggie Armstrong and Ray Vidal with accompanying ground decals by Rhonda Franks reflecting the theme of Eat, Shop, Live and Explore Downtown Tillsonburg!

Pape Village BIA

Pape Village BIA with artists Yaw Tony and Suharu Ogawa designed larger-than-life sidewalk decals reflecting the themes of community and belonging.

Aldershot Village BIA

The BIA collaborated with Vivian Rosas on a digital printed mural inspired by the businesses that make the Aldershot Village community special!

Photo Credit: Selina McCallum, Leah Marie Photography (Belle River – On the Lake) and Lucas Kschischang (Downtown Tillsonburg)

I HeART Main Street 2021 (June Highlights) Video

Video Credit: Selina McCallum, Leah Marie Photography (Belle River – On the Lake) and Lucas Kschischang (Downtown Tillsonburg)

Fall / Winter BIA Activations

Returning and new BIAs kick off the next round of the I HeART Main Street program just in time for the cooler months! Look out for more Fall and Winter activations from BIAs and artists across Ontario!

Oakwood Village BIA

Oakwood Village BIA collaborated with the Moonlight Murals Collective to create ‘Weaving the Future’. The mural, painted by Yasaman Mehrsa, Melika Saeeda and Ghazaleh Rastgar, interweaves themes of the art of quilting across different cultures, diverse communities and story-telling as a way to foster connection and prosperity. 

Photo Credit: May Shi (Oakwood Village)

The Eglinton Way BIA

The Eglinton Way BIA partnered with six artists to decorate 15+ storefront windows with intricate winter themed murals. 

Sara Sarhangpour

(Russell Hill Chiropractic, Eglinton Way Dentistry, Midroni Dental Care)

Farida Zaman

(Victory Menswear, The Healthy Butcher, 7 Numbers)

Asli Alin

(Brush, Floss, Smile, Deluxe Cleaners, Crosstown Coffee Bar)

Vesna Asanovic

(Di Moda Lingerie, Groove School of Dance, CoVi Hair Design & Boutique)

Monica Wickeler

(Go Dutch Bikes, Summerhill Market, Phipps Bakery)

Yen Linh Thai

(Gouter, Isle of Coffee, Hotel Gelato)

Photo Credit: May Shi (Eglinton Way)

Awards and Recognition

Through the presenting partnership of RBC Royal Bank and the City of Toronto, STEPS will provide prizes at the end of the summer to recognize participating BIAs who demonstrate ingenuity, creativity and a commitment to community engagement. Prizes will be awarded by a committee composed of local cultural and business leaders and will include a combination of monetary and in-kind support to realize future main street placemaking initiatives.

Congratulations to the following BIAs and artists who will receive financial and other support to scale future public art and placemaking projects:

  • Community Engagement Award Winner: Oakwood Village BIA, Curtia Wright and Leone McComas
  • Innovative Award Winner: Clarkson Village BIA, Mahmood Hosseini and Marie-Judith Jean-Louis
  • Transformational Award Winner: Downtown Timmins BIA, Jennifer Ilett and Sophie Paas-Lang

BIAs and artists who have public art activations beginning in Fall 2021 are eligible for the next award season in 2022.








Photo Credit: May Shi (Oakwood Village and Clarkson Village) and Néné Fortier (Downtown Timmins)

Award winners were selected through a review process that included an Awards Committee with cultural community representatives. Special thanks to the wonderful Committee Members involved in this year’s program:

  • 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

Partners and Supporters

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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