On October 30, The Varsity published an article on public artwork in Toronto that articulated the critically important principle of having artists from diverse backgrounds showcased in the public realm throughout the city. However, it did not accurately present the role of StreetARToronto (StART) in achieving this outcome.
The StART program is rooted in diversity and inclusion. Every year, StART commissions hundreds of artists, photographers, videographers, curators, caterers, and crew from a diversity of backgrounds in age, sexual orientation, race, religion, socioeconomic status, Indigenous/non-Indigenous status, and ethnicity. Diverse representation — which includes diverse art styles as well as diverse artists — is at the core of the program.
To ensure diverse life experiences and perspectives are incorporated for each art call, artists are recommended by an independent, community-based Advisory Panel which is itself composed of members with diverse backgrounds from various communities. That is to say that artists are not selected by a committee from the City of Toronto.
To increase the number of artists from traditionally underrepresented communities, StART has issued multiple art calls exclusively for artists identifying as female and for artists identifying as Indigenous. StART’s ‘Just Us’ art calls are specifically focused on creating murals in support of Black Lives Matter and justice for Indigenous Peoples. ‘Just Us’ is curated to highlight social injustice, equity, race relations, and community engagement.
In addition to commissioning diverse art installations throughout the city, StART has established a career development ladder for artists to move from painting small-scale projects to small walls, larger walls and all the way to murals on 10+ storey buildings. The program also showcases artists in social and traditional media art forums such as Toronto Outdoor Art Fair, Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), events at Yonge-Dundas Square, and photographic exhibitions at art galleries. The TIFF exhibit this year included live-on-street painting and concrete barriers with graphic vinyl wraps designed by diversely abled artists.
This year, StART is celebrating its tenth anniversary, and we are very proud of our demonstrated and deliberate commitment to diversity and inclusion. We often refer to the ‘class picture’ of artists with whom we have the honour to work. We are certain that this class picture reflects the diversity of the city.
Randy McLean is the manager of Neighbourhood Projects, StreetARToronto at City of Toronto Transportation Services.
Editor’s note (November 19, 2022): A previous version of this article was accompanied by an image of a mural by artist Uber5000. In fact, the art is not associated with funding from StART.