Main Street Art Challenge

Free placemaking services, artist fee subsidies, promotional support and prizes for Business Improvement Areas to host art installations that increase feelings of trust and community across Toronto and Peel main streets as part of their pandemic recovery efforts.


Location: Toronto and Peel Region

Artist(s):  Bareket Kezwer, Caitlin Taguibao, Curtia Wright, Duncan C. McLean, Erin McCluskey, Fatspatrol, Gosia Komorski, Heidi Berton, Isaiah Haber, Jenn Kitagawa, Jieun June Kim, Lauren Pirie, Lindsay Hill, Linh Thai, Marco Bertuzzo, Michael Brobbey, Nick Sweetman, Rosena Fung, Roshni Wijayasinha, Selina McCallum, Sue Todd, Vesna Asanovic, Wandy Cheng, and Yshmael Cabana

Year: 2020

Services: Public Art, Creative Placemaking


activation sites


new works of art created


Canadian artists and designers paid for their work


Business Improvement Areas supported


paid to Toronto area artists and designers


in-kind placemaking services provided to participating BIAs

“We believe that placemaking has the power to help revitalize our main streets, and plays a vital role in a holistic, local economic recovery plan.”

– Tasneem Bandukwala, Gerrard India Bazaar BIA


To support our city and the culture that brings our communities together, STEPS is providing artists and Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) with the opportunity to increase feelings of trust and community through DIY art installations.

Presented with RBC Royal Bank, STEPS launched the I HeART Main Street Art Challenge. In only two weeks, over 20 BIAs submitted requests for free coaching to develop their activations, artist introductions, fee subsidies, promotional support and a chance to win prizes to scale their ideas over the pandemic recovery period.

This initiative is brightening up our streets. The pandemic has changed our everyday life, but we can still appreciate art and being outdoors with others.”

– Jieun June Kim, Participating Artist

Through the I heART Main Street Art Challenge, STEPS aims to:

    • activate Toronto area main streets in collaboration with local artists
    • attract new customers to local businesses through creative street animations
    • strengthen relationships between BIAs through citywide Art Challenge campaigns
    • create new public art and activations that reflect local communities
    • inspire a sense of belonging and resiliency at a time of physical distancing
    • support local residents in feeling safe engaging with their community in public spaces

The 42 activations currently underway were brought to life in collaboration with 25 local Toronto area creatives; 13 of whom self-identify as emerging or BIPOC (Black, Indigenous or People of Colour) artists who have been impacted by a loss of income over the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Art is a great way to showcase the vibrancy and diversity of our community. Partnering with STEPS made sense for us because we share their passion showcasing local talent.”

– Natasha McKinnon, Port Credit BIA

The resulting activations are as diverse as the communities hosting them.
Don’t miss your chance to catch these installations – visit our activation map!

Follow @stepsinitiative and #mainstreetartchallenge on Instagram or Facebook to experience online activations throughout September 2020.

With the support of RBC Royal Bank, STEPS is able to offer prizes to participating BIAs and artists who demonstrate ingenuity, creativity and commitment to their community. Prizes include a combination of monetary and in-kind support to help participants scale their creative placemaking initiatives and are expected to be announced in October 2020.

The 2020 Main Street Art Challenge Award Selection Committee consists of:

  • Corrie Jackson (Senior Art Curator, RBC Royal Bank)
  • Councillor Gary Crawford (Ward 20 – Scarborough Southwest; Mayor’s Arts Champion)
  • Dina Graser (Board Chair, Toronto Arts Council; Canadian Urban Institute)
  • Zainab Abassi (Planner, Culture and Heritage Planning, City of Mississauga)

“The Art Challenge is a way of bringing hope, vibrancy and beauty to our gathering places.”

– Natalie Hart, Malton BIA

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