The new Toronto Sign, featuring a first wrap design recognizing the United Nations' International Decade for People of African Descent, has been unveiled by Mayor John Tory.
Presented on Friday morning, the sign's first wrap, Patterns of the People, was designed by Toronto-based artist Danilo Deluxo McCallum; the artist joined the mayor -- as well as Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson, Chair of the Economic and Community Development Committee -- for the end-of-week presentation.
The vinyl wrap on the outer edges of its letters is one of the major design features of the Toronto Sign. Refreshed approximately every 12 months, the design of the wrap is used to promote events, projects and City priorities. In October of 2019, the City's Confronting Anti-Black Racism (CABR) Unit issued a call for artists, and McCallum's design, Patterns of the People, was selected by a community jury to be the first wrap on the new structure.
"Over the past five years, the Toronto Sign has become an iconic landmark in our city, attracting residents from all over the city and visitors from all over the world. This new and more durable Toronto Sign will ensure that it continues to be part of our city’s landscape for years to come," Tory said.
"I am pleased to see that as part of the unveiling of our new sign, the first wrap will recognize the International Decade for People of African Descent. This sends a powerful message to our residents and the world that Toronto is committed to ending anti-Black racism here and that we are prepared to make the systemic changes that are needed. I encourage all Toronto institutions to demonstrate their commitment as well."
McCallum, a local multi-disciplinary artist, graphic designer and curator, has a practice deeply rooted in the art movement known as Afrofuturism.
"My Patterns of the People artwork for the new Toronto Sign explores African Fabric Patterns, symbols, such as the Adinkra bird and the Black fist, and portraiture to recognize and celebrate the richness of the Black community in Toronto and across Canada," he said. "I am proud that The City of Toronto, working with its Confronting Anti-Black Racism unit, proactively chose to recognize and feature the Black community and a Black artist’s work on the new Toronto Sign. As a diverse global city I feel it shows leadership and sends a powerful message to the international community around accountability, equity and representation. We are Toronto."
Patterns of the People will remain on the Toronto Sign for ArtworxTO 2021: The City's Year of Public Art. Meanwhile, past wrap themes have included: the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games, a Nuit Blanche Toronto artist installation by JR, Toronto Neighbourhoods, Canada 150, My City My Six Exhibition, and Indigenous Iconography.
The United Nations’ International Decade for People of African Descent, which spans from 2015 to 2024, is being recognized by the city through the new sign's design. The Decade was established to encourage the international community to recognize people of African descent as a distinct group whose human rights must be promoted and protected, with the ultimate goals of recognition, justice and development.
The Toronto Action Plan to Confront Anti-Black Racism, unanimously adopted by Toronto City Council, is being implemented by the City's CABR Unit to ensure that systemic changes are made to eliminate anti-Black racism in Toronto.
The Toronto Sign has existed in the city since it was installed in July 2015 for the Toronto Pan American and Parapan American Games. Originally only built to last a few weeks, the sign became so popular that the city extended its presence in the downtown square indefinitely; it's since become a landmark in the city.
After more than five years standing downtown, according to officials, "the original sign was showing significant wear and tear." Ongoing repairs were reportedly costly, hence the decision to replace the sign in totality. The new version is easier to clean, waterproof, and will have enhanced lighting and creative features, the city says. Both the Maple Leaf and Medicine Wheel have been retained.
The City is using reserve funds to pay for the new sign and existing operational budgets to cover the ongoing cost of maintenance and vinyl wraps.