Meet a Civic Hall Toronto Member: StreetARToronto
How a City of Toronto team is working with artists and community stakeholders to make public spaces more vibrant.
Civic Hall Toronto’s government members are always striving to use technology and design to better serve residents. This series introduces readers to our members, and the innovative work they’re doing inside and outside of City Hall.
The City of Toronto’s StreetARToronto (StART) team aims to enhance Toronto’s streets by working with artists, residents and businesses to develop and promote street art in neighbourhoods across the city.
“Streets constitute upwards of 90% of public space in the city,” says Carolyn Taylor, Project Manager with StART. “StART makes streets more appealing, safe and beautiful through a suite of innovative programs that engage people in public space and encourage active transportation.”
Launched in 2012 as part of the City’s Graffiti Management Plan, StART has seen over 640 murals completed and added art to over 390 traffic signal boxes. The team’s work helps reduce graffiti vandalism, replacing it with vibrant street art that engages the community and reduces maintenance costs.
Central to this work has been an ongoing collaboration with Toronto’s artist community. “We work with street artists who are interested in this art form and enable them to do their best work in public space in the city,” Carolyn says.
In particular, StART aims to mentor and showcase local and emerging talent, and ensure that murals individually and collectively reflect the City of Toronto’s motto: Diversity Our Strength.
“Street art projects are such a great, imminently doable tool for communities in the city. StART can work with a community and they can have a mural within a few months.”
StART is also a great example of a government initiative that’s able to complete projects quickly and actively communicate them to the public.
“Street art projects are such a great, imminently doable tool for communities in the city. StART can work with a community and they can have a mural within a few months,” says Carolyn.
Carolyn and the StART team’s work at Civic Hall Toronto has focused on making it easier for local artists to participate in StART programs, and for residents to discover the street art in their neighbourhoods.
Artists can apply to work with StART through its Partnership Program, which provides funding of up to $50,000 for large-scale projects. Until recently, the application form was only available as a PDF, which created barriers for the artists trying to access it, as well as for the community advisory committees and staff tasked with evaluating and processing applications.
To improve the process, StART worked with Civic Hall Toronto to create and implement a new online application form. According to Carolyn, “it has already relieved some of the administrative burden.”
StART has also been working on an online map of street art murals, as a way to showcase street art in the city and make it more discoverable for residents.
“We wanted people to interact and engage with it in a more permanent way than social media posts,” says Carolyn, adding that city councillors often want to know about murals in their wards, so that they can share them with their constituents.
Through Civic Hall Toronto, the StART team was able to connect with members of the local civic tech community to develop the map using an agile approach. The initial version was built iteratively in about six months and was informed by input from artists and management along the way.
The beta version of the map is now publicly available at streetart.to.
“With Civic Hall Toronto’s support, we were able to develop a proof of concept,” Carolyn says, noting that having a prototype of the map helped to better explain the project to stakeholders and build buy-in.
For more information about StART’s work, visit their website, and keep an eye on our blog for a future post offering a behind the scenes look at how the StART web map was created!