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Everyday Hero: ‘Paint The City Black’ Brings Art Work Of Toronto Streets To Life

Whether you’re cruising through Dundas Street or taking a stroll down Yonge Street, no matter where you are in Toronto, you’re bound to find powerful artwork from some of the most talented minds in the world.

All of these pieces are alive and tell stories. Paint The City Black, a Toronto street art organization, saw 47 Toronto artists come together on June 6, 2020 to paint a mural along Kensington Market, with one clear goal in mind.

Nick Sweetman, an organizer of Paint The City Black, at the inaugural event in June, 2020. Via: Aggie Paul

In fact, the art organization united to “speak out against police violence against communities of colour, and stand in solidarity with the anti-racist activism taking place all over the world in the wake of horrific incidents like the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.”

That’s what Nick Sweetman, an organizer of PTCB, told 6ixBuzz when discussing the importance of the artwork and the message.

Artists (from left to right) Bubz, Sibe, Phade and Adrian Hayles at the first PTCB in 2020.
Via: Aggie Paul

PTCB began after another Toronto artist, Moises Frank aka Luvs, was inspired by the #BlackoutTuesday campaign that encouraged instagram users to post black squares with the hashtag. Frank, along with Sweetman, Jessey Pacho (Phade), and Blaze Wiradharma, organized the inaugural event.

“The vision for the event was to transform a well-known colourful downtown art landmark into a huge collaborative message of protest against police violence toward communities of colour,” Sweetman said.

Infographic of PTCB and their main objective. Via: Nick Sweetman / Paint The City Black

The Book

Sweetman stressed the importance of the book, titled Paint The City Black and why it will guide future generations to continue to shape their lives, while embracing the beauty of living in a diverse city like Toronto.

Cover of Paint The City Black. Via: Nick Sweetman / Paint The City Black

6B: How did the idea to create a book come together?

Nick Sweetman: The idea came from the photographer and founder of Imaging91, Mark Segal.

He photographed all the work independently and then approached me to see if I thought it could be turned into a book others would want to own, and if I could help him get the other artists on board.

He felt the work was so stunning and important and knew that its lifespan would be limited because of the nature of the art form, which is why he took it upon himself to preserve this work through a comprehensive collection of images that were curated together for the book.

Toronto Street art of George Floyd in Paint The City Black. Artist: Sumartist
Via: Nick Sweetman / Aggie Paul / Paint The City Black

6B: Why should people buy the book?

NS: Other than the fact that you are supporting a great cause, this book is 76 pages long, with 71 pages of high-quality photographs of the artwork as it was originally painted by 47 of Toronto’s finest.

Much of the original work has been damaged or lost so this book represents a one-of-a-kind piece of documentation, the most complete collection of the murals created during Paint the City Black.

Toronto street art of Breonna Taylor’s name from Paint The City Black. Artist: Francis Pratt
Aggie Paul / Paint The City Black

6B: What kind of story do you want to tell and what information do you want people to retain from the book?

NS: The story this book tells is that nearly 50 artists of Toronto decided to use their artistic skills to speak out together against anti-Black racism, not just in the US but in Canada too.

The book tells the reader why we got together, and what happened when we did.

I think the story is triumphant, and hope what people take away is that while we are here in Toronto and Canada beyond are not without systemic racism, there is a chorus of voices pushing back, taking a stand, and calling for justice.

Toronto street art depicting Regis Korchinski-Paquet in Paint The City Black.
Artists work: Sibe (top left) Phade (bottom left) and Adrian Hayles (Regis portrait)
Via: Nick Sweetman / Paint The City Black

You can purchase the book at Imaging 91‘s online store and 100% of the proceeds go towards the Nia Centre for the Arts, a “Toronto-based charitable organization that supports, showcases, and promotes an appreciation of arts from across the Afro-Diaspora,” as told to 6ixBuzz.

June 6th is the release date and you can purchase the book at Imaging 91‘s online store and you can also attend the release party by signing up here.

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