After Slate Asset Management acquired all four corners at Yonge and St. Clair Ave, between 2013 and 2016, it vowed to spend millions on rejuvenating the intersection and bring back its long lost luster. St. Clair was once a vibrant neighbourhood offering a plethora of food, retail and theatre options to local families and children. This all changed in the 60’s and the 70’s when a wave of construction of generic office buildings swept through the area and stripped it of its identity. It is now more of a place in between on the way to Midtown or south to downtown than a destination in its own right. “Is” or rather “was”. Since 2016, considerable efforts have been made to beautify it, refine building exteriors, break street walls and upgrade facilities to entice new tenants. The St. Clair Mural at 1 St. Clair East in July 2016 was the property owner’s first such initiative.
Slate entrusted StreetARToronto (StART), a city program, and the STEPS Initiative to make the St. Clair Mural a reality. According to a press release from the developer, the committee selected anonymous British artist Phlegm’s work for it “not only push[ing] boundaries but closely match[ing] the qualities envisioned for the re-imagined Yonge and St. Clair.” Phlegm’s very distinctive style often features half-living half-machine creatures painted in various shades of black and white.
At St. Clair, the muralist remained true to his genius adorning the 12-storey facade of the Padulo building with a monochromatic human body in the foetal position, likely a symbol of the rebirth to come. Scattered on the person’s skin one can discern Toronto landmarks such as the ROM, the CN Tower, Old City Hall and the Gooderham Building, as well as bridges and woodland depicting the area’s ravines. When asked about his vision for the 8-story giant mural, the artist answers “I chose to work with the human form because it’s really what a city is”. He goes on to say that “A city is really just a mark left by all those billions of people that added to it and made it what it is.”
One thing is for certain, the mural is a definite improvement to the neighbourhood and does not fail to pique passersby’s curiosity. You could sit there for a good 5 minutes and try to match each represented building with its real-life counterpart.
The work of art is just steps to the west of St. Clair station on line 1 of the subway network. Note that it faces westward.
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