As Toronto continues to heal after the terrible Yonge St. incident, we are seeing many initiatives and acts of support that are helping inspire and unite the community.

Recently, quilter Berene Campbell led an installation piece called the “Toronto Love Project.” Located in the North York Centre, The Toronto Love Project is comprised of 4″ by 22ft colourful banners with messages of love, made by quilters around the world.

In an interview with Berene, she talks about her decision to start the Toronto Love Project and reminds us of the incredible power of community collaboration.

Tell me a bit about yourself and your artwork.

I am South African, and have lived in Dubai, England, and in Canada for 25 years. I am a graphic designer and a quilter. I teach quilting, make quilts, design patterns and co-ordinate collaborative projects within the quilting community.

Your community projects have been so Impactful around the world. Can you tell me a bit about this and your decision to start the Toronto Love Project?

My first community project was small. I organized a quilt for a friend who had brain cancer. I invited his friends – big hockey guys – to embroider a message on fabric, which was made into a quilt. They’d never threaded a needle, but embraced the process. It was very moving.

In 2013 the Boston bombing occurred, and I felt upset. I decided to make peace and love flags. My local Vancouver quilt guild joined in my project called “To Boston with Love”. We posted it on social media, and within 6 weeks we had almost 2,000 flags from around the world. They were hung in the Museum of Fine Arts – it was amazing! I learned that doing something positive not only makes you feel better, but it makes those participating feel better too. Everyone seeing that energy feels better.

When the Toronto van attack happened, it was so shocking. I felt that this is my town, and I wanted to help the city heal. Again, I wanted to enable people to participate in doing something that would make them feel better. And for the community that receives the gift of the installation, when they walk into that space – they will be uplifted. It’ll be beautiful.

What is the significance behind the hearts in Toronto Love?

I didn’t know North York area, so my husband, Cosmo, and I came up here to look at spaces for the project. As we were walking, Cosmo noticed that just south of Mel Lastman Square there are little bronze hearts embedded into the sidewalk. The fact that they were scattered around where the tragedy occurred seemed so poignant that I just couldn’t ignore them. I designed some heart cards for messages from the community, which hang from the banners.

What role do you think art can play in the healing?

As a person who struggles with anxiety, I find that being creative is helpful, and collaborating with other people prevents you feeling isolated, and makes us part of a bigger picture. I could make all those banners myself and it wouldn’t be as powerful as it if they were made by a community. If you give people a plan to be a part of something good, they jump on board. Collaborative energy is a very powerful thing.

North York Arts would like to thank all who have contributed to this project in support of our community.

Interview by: Rachel Birnberg

Development and Communications Coordinator