STEPS has been in operation since 2011, first as an incubated project of the Centre for Social Innovation, and now as an independently registered charity. We know we’re a young organization, but in that time we’ve engaged thousands of community members in what have been some of the largest and most inclusive cultural initiatives in Canada.
We have come to be celebrated for embedding capacity building in our work wherever possible. We have provided the public exhibition opportunities to hundreds of artists, civic engagement opportunities to thousands of community members and mentored numerous social-service agencies, Councillors and local businesses on how they can leverage cultural programming to foster new relationships and build local capacity within their communities.
In early 2014, we were awarded the inaugural national Culture Days Innovative Event Award for the unveiling of our World’s Tallest Mural, a youth-led project that transformed a 32-storey modernist social housing building into a 10,000 sq. ft. vertical canvas. Our youth-led arts collective—the Toronto Emerging ARTivists, or TEA—were 2013 recipients of the Toronto Youth Cabinet’s “Identify N’ Impact Community Arts Award” as well as the 2014 the NXT City Prize. In 2015 we received the (inaugural) Creativity Award from ArtBridges for our innovative capacity building programming.
Meanwhile, we have innovatively served our mandate and sustainability strategies through our social enterprise PATCH. Recognized as Best Social Enterprise by OCADU’s Imagination Catalyst, PATCH provides end-to-end public art solutions which enable our clients to move forward with what they do best—build communities. We work closely with local artists and designers to produce customized public art that meets the unique needs of any site alongside partners that have included Infrastructure Ontario, the City of Toronto, Tridel, Freed, Crosslinx Transit Solutions, Menkes, and Cresford.
While STEPS is incorporated on a national level, we are based in Toronto and most of our programming has engaged the city’s most diverse and underserved communities. Our work has been featured in popular and academic publications, and over the years we have been invited to speak at numerous international conferences across a variety of fields to speak to our community-engagement approach. Our St. Clair Mural (2016), which has transformed Toronto’s midtown community into a cultural landmark has been celebrated as one of Canada’s most iconic public works, since which we have been invited to lead projects in collaboration with cities around the globe.