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Public art at St. Clair breathes life into intersection

A month ago, the corner of Yonge St. and St. Clair Ave. was adorned with large and colourful portraits. The intriguing part of the art instillation is that it wasn’t on a building or a billboard, and it wasn’t placed in a park. The portraits were all hung on the hoarding covering construction of a new podium.

The buildings on the corner of Yonge and St. Clair are owned by Slate Asset Management, who have a total of 10 properties in the area. The company saw an opportunity to engage with the community during the revitalization process, and chose public art as its catalyst.

“One of our first moves at Yonge + St. Clair was to collaborate on the eight-storey mural by acclaimed street artist, Phlegm,” said Katie Fong of Slate Asset Management. “The reaction to the mural confirmed our assumption that there’s an enormous appetite for public art in this city. Incorporating public art at Yonge + St. Clair allows us to add meaning and value to what has traditionally been an overlooked area. It’s our goal to shift this perception and we see art as one of our major avenues for doing so.”

Part of the construction includes the creation of a two-storey podium at 2 St. Clair W., which will feature a new BUCA concept. Fong said it didn’t make sense to keep a blank canvas up for a few months at such a well-walked intersection.

“The art adds a splash of colour and vibrancy. We’re working towards re-establishing the neighbourhood as a destination with our investment in art and prominent tenants like BUCA. The mural sparks a sense of curiosity, and a conversation of what’s to come and it’s helping us continue to build buzz.”

The artwork was created by Daniel Mazzone, a local artisan described by the Toronto Star as the next Andy Warhol. Each portrait is made of a collage of different images, with various colours and textures, coming together to create the face of one of his icons. Each piece took roughly 200 hours to make.

“What we liked about Daniel’s work is the colour and vibrancy that it brings. We really wanted to brighten up the corner. Also, his subject matter is relatable. Everyone can look up and recognize the various personalities. We wanted something that was going to be accessible.”

In August 2016, Slate partnered with StreetARToronto, a city program that finances public art in an effort to revitalize and engage neighbourhoods. They fund a single international project a year and chose to invest in the Yonge and St. Clair community. The mural was designed and painted by international street artist PHLEGM, whose work can be found throughout Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.

Slate said there are plans for more public art at St. Clair and Yonge, but they are waiting to perfect opportunity to implement them. It will be interesting to see this neighbourhood grow.