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Toronto artists tackle sexual violence with street signs

A public art project in Kensington Market is drawing attention to the issue of sexual harassment on Toronto's streets.

The Street Talk Project debuted Thursday and features seven alternative street signs posted around the popular downtown neighbourhood.

"Having the signs within the landscape of Kensington Market will generate a lot of response and activity on social media. It's about sparking a dialogue," said Christine Dewancker, one of the project's co-ordinators.

The signs are also on display at the Whippersnapper Gallery on Dundas Street.

Dewancker said Kensington was chosen because it's adjacent to two areas in Toronto – the Bay Street corridor and the University of Toronto – that report some of the highest rates of sexual violence.

"Public art is a great vehicle for talking about the lived of experience in the city," Dewancker said. "We wanted to touch on the relationship between public space and street harassment and how that kind of gender-based violence is felt differently in different places."

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The signs touch on issues ranging from cat-calling to the role bystanders can play in preventing sexual assault or harassment.

One sign, designed by Heather Scott, shows a phallic-shaped construction arrow with the caption "your curve does not give you the right of way to cat-call."

"Like most women, I have been subjected to verbal harassment from men and I have observed that they often radiate a sense of pride after yelling their opinion of my body at me," Scott said.

"I used this idea of men feeling that they have a right to behave this way and related it to a common street sign term."

The signs will be on display in the gallery and on the street until April 26. For more information, visit streettalkproject.com.

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