Whether you live in Toronto, or just visit here occasionally, it is hard to miss the many signs of change. Cranes, construction vehicles and road closures are ever present.

Something to Chew On

From my "A Year in Black and White Film 2021 Edition" blog post.

Another notable sign of change are Notice of Development signs, which can be found throughout Toronto.

On Notice is a new exhibit that takes a closer look at Notice of Development signs and invites participants to consider the role of these signs as well as their own part in engaging with the development process.

I began photographing these signs in 2017 as a way of documenting impending change in Toronto, and the various responses that such change elicits. On Notice, curated by photographer, instructor and mentor Ruth Kaplan, features some of my most engaging images captured of these signs.

The idea to make an exhibit of my images of Notice signs came about thanks to my friend, filmmaker Simon Madore. Simon is the co-director of a short documentary called Excluded by Design, which looks at how poorly designed public notice signs can be harmful to democracy. The film features Toronto author and civic activist Dave Meslin and is part of the Hot Docs Citizen Minutes program.

Three of my images appear in Excluded By Design. Shortly after the film launched with Hot Docs, Simon suggested I consider making an exhibit of my images, and that we do a screening event in association with the exhibit launch. I loved the idea and now here we are!

I am very thankful that this project has culminated in not only a new exhibit in the Contact Photo Festival, but also a very special launch event.

On May 25, 2022 from 7:00 - 9:00 PM, we had a great opening reception, which included a screening of Excluded by Design, followed by a community discussion led by Dave Meslin.

The community discussion included (from left to right in the above image):

- Dave Meslin

- Chimwemwe Alao of Mass LBP

- Myself

- Hanen Nanaa founder of BAM Collective

- Daniel Fusca - Manager, Public Consultation, Parks, Forestry and Recreation

My thanks to these special guests, to the organizing team and to the many partner organizations for their participation in this event!

Thanks to CBC Radio's Metro Morning and BlogTO for covering the exhibit also!

I want to especially thank:

- SJ Kim, who designed the creative On Notice sign that introduces the show. Click here to see his portfolio and to connect with him.

- Graphic designer Alessandra Hechanova who worked with my ideas to create the wrecking ball Toronto logo seen on my title wall sign.

- Ruth Kaplan, documentary photographer and instructor at Toronto Metropolitan University and Gallery 44, for helping to curate the exhibit.

- Patrick Skals for making some amazing art on the title wall. I wanted the title wall to feel like the street-level environment where the Notice signs are often found. Patrick Skals and I had met at a group show several years ago, and I felt his signature style would be perfect. I am so glad Patrick agreed to come on board. He came through and made something very powerful. The final creation must be seen in person.

Patrick Skals who painted the title wall, Benny Bing, talented artist

and Artscape Board Member, and myself on opening night

My thanks also to the following City of Toronto staff who allowed me to interview them about the Notice signs and the overall development process. Their assistance was very helpful.

 - Daniel Fusca - Manager, Public Consultation, Parks, Forestry and Recreation
 - Lillian D'Souza - Coordinator, Engagement and Special Projects, Chief Planner’s Office, City Planning
 - Dulini Ratnayake - Program Manager, Graphics & Visualization, City Planning
 - Bruce Hawkins - Senior Communications Advisor, Strategic Communications

Here are some of my notes from my conversation with them:

  • The current model of Notice sign has been in place since 2015.
  • The new design was based on extensive public consultation, review of best practices in other cities and research done by staff. Use of icons, jargon-free language and 3D images are some of the elements incorporated with the redesign.
  • City staff view improving the sign as an ongoing or iterative process.
  • In the past 2 years there have been approximately 550 development proposal applications. Each application leads to the creation of at least one sign for display on the site where changes are being proposed.
  • There are likely more than 550 sites across Toronto with Notice signs posted on them as the approval process can take longer than 2 years.
  • The design standards for the sign are maintained by the city but it is the developer’s responsibility to create and install.
  • The Graphics and Visualization unit must approve the signs before they are posted. They are assessed on a number of criteria to ensure that the signs are clearly understood by average citizens, not just developers.
  • The signs must remain on site until the proposal is approved, withdrawn or denied.
  • If a sign is damaged it is up to the developer to replace it.

The links found below will be helpful for anyone wishing to learn more about the Notice signs and about the Planning and Development Process in Toronto.

- City of Toronto Planning and Development

This is the main landing page for Toronto's Planning and Development department.

- Application Information Centre

Interested in learning about a particular development proposal? Start here. Click the blue button and enter an intersection in the search bar to find development proposals in a particular area.

- Expanding Housing Options in Neighbourhoods

This site will help you learn more about the City of Toronto's plans to expand the "missing middle" housing in residential neighbourhoods - "ranging from duplexes to low-rise walk-up apartments."

- Making Space - Centering Equity in Planning

A resource for equitable engagement for planning and development processes in Toronto. "Making Space is a set of tools which will support more effective engagement with equity-deserving groups around spaces, policies and programs delivered by the City of Toronto."

- Notice Signs

Interested in the design elements of the signs? This is where you'll find them

- Planning and Development Contact Information Want to reach someone from Planning and Development? This link provides a pdf with contact information for the City of Toronto's Planning and Development staff.

On Notice remains on exhibit at Daniels Spectrum (585 Dundas St E, Toronto) until June 13th.

Please stop by and enjoy the show! Share it with friends also! Feel free to use #OnNoticeTO when sharing and to tag me also:

Instagram: @culturesnap

Twitter: @culture_snap

Facebook: @CultureSnapPhotography