Colours of Love: Expressions of Love in 2020

December 31, 2020

What the world needs now is love, sweet love

It's the only thing, that there's just too little of

- What The World Needs Now, Burt Bacharach


In early December I joined with fellow members of the Through Our Eyes Collective in presenting the online exhibit Colours of Love.

Colours of Love was presented by Zahra Baksh, Nicole Cyhelka, Sabrina La Vista, Ahely Shemontee, Lorraine Stanislaus, and myself, and facilitated by Deena Rich. Each photographer brought a unique vision of the theme Colours of Love which they shared in images and their accompanying narrative.

Click any of the above links to follow these talented photographers, and here to follow the Through Our Eyes Collective.

In this blog post I share my presentation for the Colours of Love exhibit, which I entitled "Expressions of Love".

(Lights at Meridian Hall)

While 2020 has brought so much hardship, I have been moved by the many methods people have taken to spread love this past year. I have grouped these into seven points, with some overlap between them:

  1. Creative Interventions
  2. Black Lives Matter / Anti-Racism Movement
  3. Artist: Mrs. D.
  4. Support For Frontline Workers
  5. Artist: Unicorn Shannon
  6. Light Up Live
  7. Words Of Love

Many of these images were taken on my cell phone while running - an activity that helped keep me in balance during this very tough year.

1. Creative Interventions

This may be the largest category that I observed this past year - caring people using creative means to help us see the world with fresh eyes, and to free us from negative perspectives that may understandably set in due to the pandemic.

1.a - On This Day Signboard

I spotted this whiteboard off of Donlands in East York while out on a run in the spring...

...and again many times since. What a great way to engage people with thoughtful and inspiring moments from history!

Follow them on Twitter and Instagram at @UBIboard to keep up with their daily signs.

1.b Free Roses

"Have A Rose. Have A Great Day." So simple and so kind and encouraging.

(Seen a few times along Mortimer between Coxwell and Woodbine in East York).

1.c Free Plants and Seeds

This kind soul on Mortimer, a little east of Broadview, had a very organized giveaway of plants and seeds on their front lawn. The cards and messages found there were especially touching - and, as seen above, this person is also running a "bike project" of some sort!

There are clearly many wonderful people in this world that we never hear about - but who are doing so much to show love to others.

1.d Humour

I expect humour helped many of us break out of our doomscrolling, right? I've laughed so many times in 2020 thanks to memes that pointed out the absurdity of all that we are experiencing this year.

(Found in East York earlier in the year.)

1.e Kindness Rocks

If you look closely, there are some very nice messages to be found on these stones.

My thanks to all who took the time to make and to place these where we would see them and be encouraged.

(Seen in multiple locations in East York and The Beach.)

1.f Public Art

So much could be said on this point! I actually single out two artists that inspired me later on in this blog post, but the point needs to be said clearly: art was even more meaningful to many this year due to the pandemic.

The Distillery District had art with encouraging messages that many needed to see and hear.

STEPS Initiative, local BIAs like the Danforth Mosaic BIA and the Royal Bank brought public art all over Toronto via the I HeART Main Street Art Challenge. Such a great program!

Thank you to all the artists who shared their love and creative vision in 2020!

2. Black Lives Matter / Anti-Racism Movement

2020 was a massive year for facing up to racial injustice and inequality, as well as personal privilege and biases.

I was moved by the many voices and actions calling for change. I observed many of these in signs around the city...

Tokyo Smoke (formerly HMV music) boarded up in advance of Black Lives Matters protests (as many downtown stores were that weekend) due to a misplaced fear of violence.

To see more of boarded up Toronto please visit Part One and Part Two of my "Boards Up, Walls Down" blog posts.

Some horrible acts of hate occurred at construction sites around Toronto, including at the Michael Garron Hospital in East York. The local community responded powerfully with signs and messages of defiance of these acts, and in support and of love for all people.

These signs and messages really made me proud, and showed the deep well of love that resides in local citizens of Toronto.

A very detailed mural in Scarborough that shows the heartbreaking loss of Black lives over the years.

(Seen while out for a run. I believe this was by Rosetta McLain Gardens on Kingston Road, south of Danforth Avenue).

(Seen a few blocks north of Broadview and the Danforth).

I saw similar additions to several of these signs in East York.

(On Haldon Avenue by the entrance to Taylor Creek Park.)

Use Your Love! Not Your Hate.

(Michael Garron Hospital)

Thank you to all who stood up against hate and for love of all people in 2020. May we continue to do even more for justice and equality in 2021.

3. Artist: "Mrs. D"

One of my running routes this year took me past a post that was regularly updated with fresh artwork...

They were all signed by someone known as "Mrs. D".

I especially love those birds with the big eyes.

My thanks to "Mrs. D" for taking the time to share her art all throughout 2020 for all to see. You shared love with many and it made a difference!

(See on Woodfield Road, near Wapole Avenue in East York)

4. Support For Frontline Workers

A very clear expression of love this year, shown throughout the world, was all the messages in support of Frontline Workers. Here are some that I observed...

A number of trees and lightposts along Mortimer Avenue had rainbows on them, all in support of essential workers. This was done in connection with a campaign called Abbey's Goal (click the link to learn more about this great campaign).

Homes in East York

Seen at Michael Garron Hospital

(Seen on Mortimer Avenue, between Coxwell and Woodbine.)

(Seen in a storefront window in The Beach.)

Thank you Frontline Workers!

Thank you to all who shared love and support for them as well!

5. Artist: Unicorn Shannon

I noticed this great artwork on the wall at Michael Garron Hospital wall earlier this year.

Later I began seeing this artist's work in other places around East York.

East End Arts (a wonderful Local Arts Service Organization!) did a nice feature on Unicorn Shannon earlier this year, which helped me to know who was making this lovely artwork.

Thank you Unicorn Shannon for bringing love and creativity to Toronto!

Follow Unicorn Shannon on Instagram @unicornstudiostoronto.

6. Light Up Live

There were many dedicated campaigns this year in support of those most vulnerable during the harsh economic reality brought about by COVID-19 closures and restrictions. I am thankful for each of these and the love and passion put into them.

One campaign that I documented more intentionally this year (with my Nikon DSLR) was the #LightUpLive campaign.

Meridian Hall, lit up in red for Light Up Live

Light Up Live was a national campaign in support of live event workers of all types - in the music industry, theatres and beyond - all who have lost their livelihoods due to the shutdown of the live event industry.

Live event venues across Canada lit up for one night, on September 22nd, to raise awareness of their struggle.

Workers at the Canadian Stage Company gather outside the Berkeley Street Theatre in recognition of the Light Up Live campaign.

As someone who loves live music and theatre, and has photographed many live events, I dearly miss this industry and all the joy that they bring to our lives.

My thanks to the Light Up Live organizers for engaging Canada with this important campaign. May we attend live events once again in 2021!

(To see more images of this campaign please visit my Light Up Live blog post.)

7. Words of Love

Much of what I have shared here could fall under this category, but I needed a separate section to share the random messages of love that I encountered throughout Toronto in 2020.

So here goes...

It's Okay To Have A Bad Day

Love Yourself

Live More Worry Less

(Lomography Potsdam 100 Film, by Foot Locker on Yonge Street)

Be Kind - Thank You!

(Kodak Color Plus 200 Film, at the Queen Street East Value Village)

Spread Love! Not Hate! Seriously!

(Parliament Street near Lakeshore)


It seems fitting to close with the question raised in this next image:

What If We All Had Love?

(Kodak Ektar 100 Film, near Lakeshore & Leslie)

Indeed, what if we all had love?

Perhaps the best way to find out is to keep on showing love to those around us?

Imagine what 2020 would have been like if no one had shared all of the above creativity? Imagine what 2021 can be like if we see even more of this?

If you have an idea for a creative and artistic intervention - consider making it happen 2021!

Art by Unicorn Shannon

Thanks to all who brought love in 2020! Let's keep it going in 2021!

Best wishes to you for a healthy and successful New Year!

Culture Snap Photography features the work of Toronto-based photographer Henry VanderSpek. Henry specializes in documenting the work of local and international non-profit organizations, special events, live music, street and art photography. To hire Henry for an assignment, please click here to get in touch.
January February March April May (1) June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June (1) July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January (1) February March (2) April May (1) June July August September October November (1) December
January (2) February March April May June July August September (1) October November December (2)
January (2) February (1) March (2) April (1) May June July August September (1) October November December
January February (1) March (1) April (1) May June (2) July (1) August September October November December (1)
January February (2) March (1) April May June (1) July August September October (1) November December (1)
January (1) February March April (1) May June July August September October November December