Those behind a new painting unveiled at Toronto City Hall this week say the idea is to try and refocus the city on civility and unity, much-needed qualities which they say have been lacking recently in public discourse.


The work was spearheaded by Toronto artist Jessica Gorlicky and unveiled at city hall Wednesday at an event attended by Mayor Olivia Chow and a number of other councillors, as well as Enough T.O, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, and the Federation of Black Canadians.

"We wanted to make sure that a lot of different hands were in the pot so that it represents exactly what we hope for, which is a united space, a united city, coming together as one," Gorlicky told CP24. "And each stroke represents that in terms of colour and vibe."

The new work is called "Brushstrokes of Unity: Fostering Civility in the City" and was created by inviting people of diverse backgrounds to come together to add brushstrokes.

"We realized that a lot of people need to express what's been going on in the city and (are) feeling really stuck by it, and art and creative expression is the best way to do it," said Sharon Zohar of Enough T.O.

Together with Gorlicky, the group invited people of diverse backgrounds to come together to add a brushstroke to the work to express their feelings about Toronto.

Zohar said each brushstroke was meant to be an act to reclaim "some of the values that we really miss – those of civility, tolerance, and just really respect towards our neighbour."

Enough T.O is a grassroots movement formed "in response to the growing polarization we're seeing around the world, in Canada and specifically in Toronto," the group says on its website.

"We are concerned about the rise of incivility and uncivil discourse online and IRL (in real life) — often now tending towards incitement and violence," the group says. "We are concerned that we as a society are getting closer and closer to crossing the line between free speech/free expression and into a dangerous zone of personal harassment, hate speech and threats."

The group's efforts come in the wake of months of protests over the Israel-Hamas war in the city, some of which have seen violence, arrests, and charges of inciting hate. Businesses, community centres and places of worship have also been targeted.

Civility artwork

Toronto police have said they've seen an explosion of hate incidents targeting Jews, as well as an uptick in anti-Black, anti-LGBTQS2+, and Islamophobic incidents.  

"The artists/collaborators of this artwork envisioned a message of unity and harmony, in the hope that all who view it will contemplate values that made this city great: inclusivity, tolerance, civility, empathy, and respect," Coun. James Pasternak said in a post on X.

The work will be on display at the rotunda at city hall throughout the summer and will then travel to other com unities and educational spaces to help spread a message of civil discourse.