Photo: James Bombales
Often overshadowed by more prominent neighbourhoods like Yonge and Eglinton to the North and Yonge and Bloor to the South, the once vibrant Yonge and St. Clair area is now on the verge of a major revitalization. Led by Toronto-based real estate company, Slate Asset Management L.P., the ambitious project will see the neighbourhood undergo rapid changes including architectural facelifts, new retail and signage and new public art pieces.
One of the first signs of change can now be seen on the exterior western-facing wall of an office building at 1 St. Clair Avenue West. During the month of July, internationally-renowned street artist, Phlegm, rappelled off the 12-storey building as he painted his latest masterpiece in the heart of the Yonge and St. Clair community.
“Yonge and St. Clair was once a vibrant and bustling area, but in recent times has been sorely overlooked,” said Lucas Manuel, Managing Director at Slate. “Our goal is to make lasting, impactful public-realm improvements that will revive this once-proud neighbourhood, and the mural is our first step in injecting a dynamic new energy into Yonge and St. Clair.”
To bring the mural to reality, Slate partnered with award-winning public arts organization, The STEPS Initiative as well at the City of Toronto’s StreetARToronto (StART) program. Phlegm was selected from a shortlist of 10 global artists because his aesthetic not only pushes boundaries but closely matches the qualities envisioned for the re-imagined neighbourhood. Part of the process involved a series of community consultations where STEPS canvassed area
workers, residents and businessowners, asking what Yonge and St. Clair means to them.
“An important part of what we do at STEPS is produce public art in unlikely spaces,” said Alexis Kane-Speer, Founding Director at STEPS. “Embracing the existing built forms of the city and challenging ideas around what constitutes cultural space is inherent to our approach. We see canvasses everywhere.”
Rising eight storeys above St. Clair Avenue West, the large-scale mural is elegant and complex as it takes an unmistakable human form from afar but reveals notable city landmarks as one draws nearer. Look close and you’ll see prominent depictions of the city’s lush ravine system, top cultural venues like the the Royal Ontario Museum and the iconic CN Tower among other famous landmarks.
“I chose to work with the human form because it’s really what a city is,” explained Phlegm. “A city is really just a mark left by all those billions of people that added to it and made it what it is.”
To learn more about the initiative visit YongeStClair.ca and be sure to check out our before and after slider of the mural above.