The Sustainable Thinking and Expression on Public Space (STEPS) Initiative, alongside its partner the St. James Town Community Corner, will begin painting the upper sections of Canada’s tallest mural at Toronto Community Housing property – 200 Wellesley Street East on Thursday – August 8th at noon (rain date Friday). The mural’s design incorporates the motif of a bird soaring up, emblematic of a phoenix rising, to counter the negative stereotypes associated with St. James Town and the experience of residents highlighting themes of diversity, accessibility, local culture, safety and happiness weaved into its lower sections. It will stand approximately 250 feet, once complete.
200 Wellesley Street resident Amy Harris says how she loves the project, especially the design, “the phoenix always rises up from its own ashes…no matter what this building or this community has gone through we still rise up.”
The project has involved collaboration among 40 young people from the St. James Town community and 8 professional artists, who have been participating in STEPS’s Emerging ARTivist Program, a platform for young people across Toronto to learn about urban design and lead public art projects in their communities. The mural comes out of discussions between youth artists and the wider community on larger issues of public space, the environment, and accessibility.
“In my opinion, the greatest part of this mural project is the youth involvement. This experience is going to enrich their lives, both personally and professionally, and carry them forward,” says David Essig, building resident and Program Facilitator at the St. James Town Community Corner.
The building, which possesses a complicated history, is located near a busy intersection, with high multi-modal traffic, including pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. While visible from around the downtown core – a rare occurrence for downtown properties – the building is currently unmemorable and often difficult for residents and users of the Community Corner on its main floor to find. The mural seeks to turn the building into a celebrated local landmark and will be visible from many tall buildings across Toronto’s downtown core.
“Our communities benefit from engaged local residents beautifying our public spaces, and this mural project is an excellent opportunity for the youth in St. James Town to give to their neighbourhood while exploring their creativity,” said Councillor Pam McConnell (Ward 28, Toronto Centre – Rosedale). “This mural will elevate the neighbourhood in a very exciting way, both bringing sparkle and splendour as well as providing the St. James Town youth a new source of pride.”
In addition to the local impact that this project is having by brightening the St. James Town’s public spaces and the lives of residents, particularly its youth, it is presumed to be the tallest mural in the world. The STEPS Initiative currently has an application in the Guinness Book of World Records to confirm whether they can officially claim this title, but the group has not been able to uncover a taller example around yet, which will certainly put both St. James Town and Toronto on the global public art map.
This project is scheduled to be officially unveiled in September 2013. Once complete, the project is expected to cost approximately $50K, with roughly half of the funding coming from StreetARToronto (or StART); a new, pro-active City of Toronto program that aims to develop, support, promote and increase awareness of street art and its indispensable role in adding beauty and character to neighbourhoods across Toronto, while counteracting graffiti vandalism and its harmful effect on communities. The rest of the resources for this project are coming from the Ontario Arts Council, the Ontario Trillium Foundation, ING Direct and in-kind contributions from the STEPS Initiative and local businesses.
The project continues to look for donations of supplies and refreshments to keep youth leaders well fueled during the mural’s creation.
Alexis Kane-Speer, Director, the STEPS Initiative 647-999-0213 or firstname.lastname@example.org (media inquiries)
Vera Belazelkoska, On-Site Project Coordinator day of 647-273-5397 (additional day-of contact)