The STEPS Initiative is an award winning charity at the intersection of arts and culture, community, and city-building by animating unlikely spaces with unlikely partners. We seek to inspire cities across Canada and around the world to create welcoming public spaces that reflect and celebrate local community through artistic excellence and have been responsible for some of Canada’s largest and most community-engaged public art initiatives.
Initially conceived as an incubated project of the Centre for Social Innovation, and recently concluding its 7th year in existence, STEPS has led some of Canada’s largest and innovative public arts initiatives. Their World’s Tallest Mural and #StClairMural, alongside their award-winning social enterprise - PATCH - through which they collaborate with landowners and developers to turn under-utilized spaces into an ongoing public gallery, have received international recognition. Their work ranges from commissions as high-profile as the Ceremonial Cauldron for the TO2015 PanAm / Parapan Am Games, to building the capacity of youth and emerging artists to lead community-engaged projects.
Thoughts About Art and Community
We believe that public spaces—as sites of interaction between diverse people—are eroding. Art can not only aesthetically transform these spaces, but it also serves as a language through which people can create shared spaces that foster civic engagement. We provide a platform for people to lead initiatives that validate their experiences, their community’s cultures and histories, and their concern for social and environmental issues, all while transforming their communities through public art.
OUR PROGRAMMING IS BUILT AROUND THESE CORE PILLARS:
We have come to be celebrated for embedding capacity building in our work wherever possible. We have provided the public exhibition opportunities to hundreds of artists, civic engagement opportunities to thousands of community members and mentored numerous social-service agencies, Councillors and local businesses on how they can leverage cultural programming to foster new relationships and build local capacity within their communities.
Meanwhile, we have innovatively served our mandate and sustainability strategies through our social enterprise PATCH. Recognized as Best Social Enterprise by OCADU’s Imagination Catalyst, PATCH provides end-to-end public art solutions which enable our clients to move forward with what they do best—build communities. We work closely with local artists and designers to produce customized public art that meets the unique needs of any site alongside partners that have included Infrastructure Ontario, the City of Toronto, Tridel, Freed, Crosslinx Transit Solutions, Menkes, and Cresford.
While STEPS is incorporated on a national level, we are based in Toronto and most of our programming has engaged the city’s most diverse and underserved communities. Our work has been featured in popular and academic publications, and over the years we have been invited to speak at numerous international conferences across a variety of fields to speak to our community-engagement approach.