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These Students Are Taking Over The Toronto Eaton Centre With Art & Here's How They Did It

Their billboards will be on display for 18 months!

If Yonge Street is looking fresher these days, don't be surprised. A new outdoor art gallery is hanging above the Toronto Eaton Centre, and it was created by three students.

The careers of OCAD University student Daria Joyce, 20, and alum Jason Zante, 22, have taken flight this year after scoring massive billboards in the Eaton Centre's new art corridor exhibit.

The exhibit, called Imagine Together, released in early July, will run for 18 months, showcasing the artwork of three OCAD students representing "how art can bring people together and build community," according to OCAD University.

Seeing their billboards for the first time

"I was just honestly in awe. I feel like I still haven't taken it in. It still feels very unbelievable, to be honest, to just see your artwork up and then also to see it at that scale." Zante told Narcity.

"It's very surreal because when you're working, Daria, and I work on an iPad's, so it's very small and scale and then when you see it up in person and it's super large, it's kind of like crazy to see it in that format because I've never seen my artwork in that scale."

"Yeah, it really just kind of takes your breath away that first time and it's like, [I'm] just so grateful for the opportunity and being able to kind of share that, share your ideas and your feelings towards community and the Eaton Centre and Toronto with the whole city," said Joyce.

Courtesy of Cadillac Fairview

What was the applicant process?

The Eaton Centre and OCAD University collaboratively opened a contest for OCAD students and recent grads to find the talent they needed in spring 2021.

Zante told Narcity he sent his application in on March 1 after spending countless hours sketching and brainstorming his concept, but he wasn't confident he would secure a spot as time ticked on.

The next day, he was accepted. However, he wasn't alone in his doubts. Joyce was also unsure if she would make it to the top of the applicant pool.

"I was sitting and waiting for the email, and I was like, I don't know, it's such a cool opportunity. I wouldn't be surprised if thousands of people applied for this. And yeah, I got the email [...] I was just speechless," she told Narcity.

Courtesy of Cadillac Fairview

What was the design process?

Zante and Joyce estimated they spent over 100 hours on the project, designing the billboards from their iPads with a one-month deadline.

"They gave a great list of prompts. So kind of words that would suggest a community coming together. They had words like 'design can regenerate' 'design can include,' and you'll see those on our billboards," said Joyce.

"I wanted to talk about that idea of how important a diverse community is and how important representation is and to be able to show that the Eaton Centre is a space where everyone is welcome," said Joyce.

Zante chose to focus on "how design can serve communities and influence spaces and impact."

"They were really inspired by how art and design have the ability to trigger conversations that matter. I wanted to have that sort of human connection in my artwork," said Zante.

According to the artists, the exhibit was pushed back three to four times due to COVID-19, but they are now open for public viewing.