Skip to Main Content

February 01, 2016

Curate The City

Curate The City
Curate The City: Community Engagement Through Art
Cities are experiencing development unrivaled in history, with a growing movement to take advantage of unsightly, negative spaces and create a public realm with a higher standard of excellence. Public art has been proven to bolster community relations and create a vibrant streetscape. Underused and vacant spaces, like construction sites, provide a unique opportunity for new and innovative ways in approaching development, public art, and community engagement.

Construction boarding lines our streets for up to five years. An otherwise unwelcome disruption can be used as a blank canvas to engage local citizens in community building activities. With momentum building among Toronto’s city councillors to require public art on these vacant spaces, there is a growing demand for public art from Council as well as the public, and the opportunity to transform them into an outdoor gallery for residents and visitors alike.

PATCH it UP at the Riverside ArtsFest with PATCH Artists Melissa Luk and Ema Ciobanica. Photograph by: Michael Ngyuen

The STEPS Initiative
The STEPS Initiative is an award winning public arts organization that builds the capacity of citizens to take action in creating more vibrant and connected communities by: facilitating large-scale public space revitalizations; bringing together diverse stakeholders; developing meaningful partnerships; building youth capacity; and articulating creative solutions to urban challenges.
Since 2010, we have led several large-scale public art installations that have engaged thousands of community members of all ages. Through our award-winning PATCH Project, we work in collaboration with local landowners and artists to transform underused spaces across Toronto into an ongoing curated exhibit, while building the capacity of emerging artists to exhibit in the public realm. By transforming eyesores into opportunities for public realm beautification and community engagement, we improve the urban experience for residents and visitors alike.
Through careful evaluation, we have learned many lessons about our process and have seen the short-term and long-term impacts of our work. In an effort to bring art to the streets of Toronto, we challenge the way that the people view public art and start dialogue on how the city treats underutilized and forgotten spaces. In our mission to connect people to public spaces through art and provide a platform for Torontonians to become engaged in impactful community transformation, we have created a Community Engagement Framework to guide all projects of such nature.
PATCH at the 2015 OPPI Conference with PATCH artist Carlos Delgado. Delegates were invited to co-create a new work of public artwork through a live painting session during the OPPI conference. The work created not only engaged delegates in the process of community-engaged artwork, but also added to their understanding of the impact of art in the public realm, as well as uniquely participating in the conception, design and production of a work of art. 

Connecting People to Public Spaces Through Art
We provide a platform for residents to become engaged in impactful community revitalization and connect people to public spaces through art. Our approach is two-pronged: we engage the community at large, and reach out to and engage residents, by following six principles.
1. Collaborate with the existing stakeholders
2. Ensure Extensive Community Engagement
3. Engage Appropriate Artists
4. Build Capacity through Arts Programming
5. Ensure Broader Community Support
6. Celebrate to Foster Shared Ownership
Now it’s over to you: Do you want to shift the experience of development? How could you involve community members to improve their experiences of their community? How can you bring these ideas to YOUR community?
Tell us what you think in the comments below. Share your ideas.
The STEPS Initiative

Read Mojan's Bio

The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author(s), and may not reflect the position of the Ontario Professional Planners Institute.

Post by Mojan Jianfar, on behalf of The STEPS Initiative

Recent Posts