Public art is transforming Vaughan neighbourhoods and districts. See how creative placemaking is unfolding in Vaughan’s emerging downtown and beyond.

This article was contributed by Sharon Gaum-Kuchar, Senior Art Curator, Vaughan Economic Development

What brings life to a city? While architecture, landscape, art and culture, economy, people and experiences make up its heart, a sense of place, community identity, shared experiences and powerful attachments give a city its soul.

The urban heartbeat of any city pulsates strongest through its vibrant metropolitan core. Heartbeats of some of the most adored cities flow and evolve through historical downtown arteries deeply infused with the rich cultural fabric of its residents. In contrast, the younger heartbeats of developing cities have the potential to circulate with visionary planning through new urban arteries, animating the combined character of diverse populations. The public personality of a city, old or new, is intricately bound to the development of its metropolitan core, and the neighbourhoods and districts surrounding it.

Vaughan, one of Canada’s fastest-growing municipalities, is enhancing its vibrant downtown – the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre (VMC). In keeping with the transformational vision for the VMC, the public art that is advancing creative placemaking in this district will establish a standard of excellence for animating neighbourhoods city-wide. Public art within the VMC helps cultivate its authentic metropolitan identity as a distinctive cultural destination.



The most recent public art initiative bolstering creative placemaking in the VMC is the City’s ARTonBOXES program, under which traffic signal boxes were transformed into exceptional works of art, housed as assets of the Vaughan City-Wide Public Art Program.

ARTonBOXES launched through the Group of Seven REMIXED pilot project in June 2023, debuting original art created for designated traffic signal boxes located within prominent streetscapes in all five wards across Vaughan – including within the VMC, which was identified as a priority area. In tandem with the successful launch of the program, a comprehensive ARTonBOXES 10-Year Implementation Strategy has been developed as the working blueprint for delivering a signature creative placemaking initiative between 2025 to 2034.

Implemented over 10 years, the program aims to:

  • transform 75 to 100 traffic signal boxes into extraordinary works of art city-wide.
  • build assets in the City’s Civic Public Art Collection.
  • target the engagement of 1,000 artists from Vaughan, York Region and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
  • enhance the creative urban character of Vaughan neighbourhoods and districts across all five wards.
  • interpret Vaughan’s unique identity, core values and socio-economic vitality annually through 10 curated themes.
  • animate and beautify streetscapes to engage pedestrians, drivers and cyclists.
  • deter tagging vandalism on capital infrastructure through proven art intervention.
  • nurture a sense of place, community and civic pride.
  • maximize opportunities to engage emerging and established artists of all skills, experience and backgrounds by embracing diversity, equity and inclusion.
  • mentor emerging resident artists to facilitate public art learning.
  • cultivate creative partnerships with York Region and the arts community.
  • respect the legacy of Vaughan’s past in heritage districts and profile the City’s commitment to smart city innovation.
  • install art strategically along streetscapes to create distinctive neighbourhood environments, serve as memorable landmarks and enhance wayfinding.
  • generate public art awareness by celebrating artistic excellence and spotlighting resident talent.
  • position the City of Vaughan at the forefront in York Region for developing and implementing a signature traffic box art-wrapping program.

This clustering of a family of public art landmarks within a key priority district is a strong exemplar of the role and value of public art in shaping the city’s authentic urban character and economic vitality. Animating traffic signal boxes in the downtown core reinforces the expansive movement of public art designed to captivate the interest of a diverse audience travelling through the public realm of the VMC. The strategy also provides fair and equitable public art opportunities for emerging and established visual artists of all backgrounds and levels of experience from Vaughan and the GTA.



Public art and creative expression are essential to the vibrancy, identity, social well-being and economic development of Vaughan’s neighbourhoods and districts, and can have a transformative effect on quality of life. ARTonBOXES integrates creative expression into the fabric of everyday public realm experiences for residents and visitors alike.

Want to learn more about art in Vaughan? Learn more about Public Art and the Corporate Art Collection at