New Placemaking Project In Progress

The marketing committee is pleased to announce that we have just been notified that our application for the I heart Main Street Challenge has been accepted!

Cities are at the centre of the pandemic recovery, and main streets are the glue of our communities. Canada’s main streets have struggled as they adapt to meet the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many are facing decreased foot traffic, vacant and underutilized storefronts, changed public space use, new guidelines for business delivery and increased vandalism. Meanwhile, many of the street festivals organized by local BIAs that activate these commercial districts, attract walk-in customers, employ creatives and enliven our communities will be cancelled or scaled back in 2020.

Through I heART Main Street, STEPS aims to provide Toronto area Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) with the supports they need to develop creative activations along their main streets, whether that is to hire artists to help realize their visions, (safely) engage their communities, showcase local business success stories and/ or build their staff capacity to realize longer-term placemaking initiatives over the pandemic recovery period.



I heART Main Street aims to:

  • activate Toronto’s 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 activities
  • 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 while engaging with their community in public spaces


Pro-Bono Creative Placemaking & Public Art Services

The STEPS team will provide free tailored coaching (up to 5 hours) to help BIAs generate ideas, support logistics planning, connect with artists and other resources to realize their creative visions. The focus of this coaching will be on quick DIY oriented creative placemaking methods that will help foster trust and a sense of community among local businesses, residents and artists as part of main street recovery.

This is your chance to experiment! Some of the things we can support you in doing include:

  • vacant storefront wraps
  • sidewalk decals
  • window installations
  • creative distancing markers
  • hoarding exhibits
  • movable banner installations
  • greenscaping
  • projection or sound installation

They can also help provide the extra support to ensure planned 2020 cultural projects, like community murals, street banners and mixed media installations move forward in this challenging time!




Emerging Multidisciplinary Talent

Participating BIAs are expected to engage a minimum of two (2) artists in paid opportunities as part of the Challenge, but are encouraged to engage more in activating their main streets. To help realize your creative visions, STEPS us able to connect participating BIAs with our diverse and talented Toronto area artist network.

Artist Fee Subsidies
BIAs who engage artists from STEPS artist roster or another local BIPOC (Black Indigenous and People of Colour) artist may be eligible for artist fee subsidies of up to $1000!

Professional Visual Assets

STEPS will arrange for a photographer to help visually capture their activations, for use during after the Challenge in BIA and local business promotions.

Promotional Tools and Support

STEPS will provide promotional tools to help raise awareness about BIA activations and local businesses, this will include Art Challenge social media templates, as well as city-wide activities that feature participating BIAs, including an Art Challenge scavenger hunt.

Recognition and Resources to Build on Your Creative Work!

We have teamed up with RBC Royal Bank to offer several prizes to participating BIAs’ projects who demonstrate ingenuity, creativity and a commitment to community engagement. Prizes will be juried by a group of local cultural and business leaders, and will include a combination of monetary and in-kind support to help realize future creative placemaking activities along Toronto’s local main streets.




BIAs are stretched right now and creative projects may not be your priority. The Art Challenge has been designed to help BIAs respond to challenges facing local businesses, and a big part of that is making sure that community members know about what’s happening along your main street. Participating BIAs and businesses initiatives will be featured on Art Challenge, STEPS and/or our partner platforms.

To make sure that the hard work of BIAs is recognized, celebrated and amplified – A jury of cultural and business leaders will award several prizes to participating BIAs recognizing exemplary programming. Prizes will include a combination of monetary prizes (totalling $7,500) and artist fee subsidies (up to ($10,000), as well as in-kind coaching services from STEPS (valued at $10,000), to support BIAs in developing future creative placemaking over 2020 / 2021.




Wednesday, July 22nd, 2020 Registration deadline
Week of July 27th, 2020 Coaching for BIAs Begins
August – September 2020 Main Street activations / public promotional campaign
October 2020 Art Challenge Winners Announced / Prizes Awarded!!
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