‘Come As You Are Uniquely You’ Mural by Curtia Wright

The ‘Come as you are, Uniquely you’ mural was launched on May 14, 2022 with Jonathan Van Ness.  The mural’s lead artist is Curtia Wright and curator is Monica Wickeler. Supported by Street Art Toronto and JVN Hair.

Find the mural at 701 Queen St E in Toronto’s Riverside neighbourhood – it is best viewed from Broadview Ave just south of Queen E

Jonathan Van Ness at the May 14, 2022 launch of the mural (Photo credit: Riverside BIA)

Come As You Are, Uniquely You’ – 2022
Location: 701 Queen E, east-facing wall (best viewed from Broadview Ave – south of 705 Queen E)
Artist: Curtia Wright (website:  curtiawright.com/, IG curtia)

Artist Statement:
Love and passion flow through the JVN brand and I wanted to capture this by depicting figures with beautiful flowing hair cascading through the design reminiscent of waterfalls. The brand treats a diverse array of hair types from tight curls to straight hair. JVN is an advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community and supporter of people and their differences. I wanted to show a diverse array of people accompany Jonathan in the centre. The JVN brand is also focused on leaving a smaller environmental footprint and uses natural components in their ingredients such as coconut, moringa, basil, tangerine, jasmine etc which inspired the design and colour. I included natural elements such as flowers and butterflies to communicate this message.

About the Artist: 
Curtia Wright is a multi-disciplinary Fine Artist, Mural Artist Illustrator, and Arts Educator based in Toronto. She received her BFA at OCAD University in the Drawing and Partnership Program in 2015 and currently teaches at Durham College. Her artwork re-imagines our reality using elements of fantasy and surrealism in a diverse array of mediums and styles.

Participating Artists:
Lead artist Curtia Wright, Assistant Artist: Gosia Komorski, Philip Saunders and Moises Frank. Mentee Artists: Rocelle David, Site Coordinator and Safety Rep: Liam Little.

Supported by:


Do you know the language of Flowers? Quince’s florist does – come closer!

Blogs by Bisi

“Not just a pretty thing, flowers have storied in history…” is a notable quote by Rosie Jeffares-Levitt, a quintessential personality in the floral world and owner of Quince Flowers at 660 Queen Street East in Toronto’s Riverside neighborhood.

Quince Flowers Riverside Toronto

Flower arrangement called ‘Purple Haze Colour combo’ by Quince Flowers (Photo credit: Quince Flowers)

Just as food is so significant to human existence, flowers have also become important to human life in a variety of ways. Among these are; the beautification of houses, street landscaping, garden making, and beautifying occasions, among other significance. 

Usage of flowers is multi-dimensional. People use flowers to express love, gratitude, happiness, or to release tension, and mourn a departed soul.

Quince Flowers shares this analogy, viewing the floral business as a calling, and not just ordinary work. This makes them do what they know how to do best in their area of specialization and expertise when it comes to floral aesthetics. Be it flower facts,  potted plants, big blooms, little blooms, among myriads of other beautifications they transform flowers into, creating special effects of nature that suit each occasion.

Quince Flowers pride themselves in floral arrangements for any occasion, be it  weddings, birthday celebrations, Mother’s Day, or just to say “thank you” or “I love you”.

Speaking of just saying “I love you”, Quince has their Wonderblooms Monthly floral subscription, so you never forget to show your love to another, or just to yourself!  Sign up https://quinceflowers.com/products/wonderblooms

Quince has done arrangements for celebrated events such as Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and has a wcide range of clients and expertise.

Situated in the heart of Toronto Riverside neighborhood, Quince is also part of  a community of businesses that have been mutually supportive for decades, and owner Rosie is an active volunteer member and Co-Chair of the Riverside BIA Board of Directors. 

So stop by Quince Flowers and show them your love and follow @quinceflowers on Instagram. Each month they give away a bouquet in their Wonderblooms Monthly Subscription contest. Just Like the giveaway post, then tag at least three of your friends under the comments section.

An array of fresh flowers is the beginning of a radiating world of love, and Quince Flowers is tops as a local go-to spot.

About the Author:

Bisi has been a community content and script writer since 2006, working internationally as a journalist and now locally in Toronto.

Kids Activities Back on Track at Queen & Saulter Library Branch

Blogs by Bisi

Here’s the news on the Toronto Public Library and Riverside neighborhood’s local library: Queen & Saulter Branch…

“The more you make it easy for your kids, the more you remove the struggle necessary for learning” Maxime Legacy.

Riverside Toronto Queen Saulter Library

Queen/Saulter Library Branch is back with programs (Photo credit: Riverside BIA)

In a bid to increase the readership skills among youths and kids, the Toronto library eliminates all late fees on returns of materials borrowed.

According to findings, late fees have not been effective and removing them will better support library users while providing other benefits.   

Any library cardholder can now borrow books and other materials from local libraries without the worry of fines and can explore other opportunities including, workspace, free Wi-Fi, private study space, and civic engagement for different age categories.

Kids Programming is Back at the Queen & Saulter Branch!

After a long time closed over the pandemic, Queen & Saulter Branch of TPL re-opened in the fall of 2021 and is now bringing back its programming for kids, young adults, parents,, and caregivers.

 The branch has earmarked Wednesdays for Family time, including Storytime, Songs, Children’s rhymes, and different readings, among other activities. Ready for Reading Storytimes: Toronto Public Library

With pre-school children, from 0-5, as its main audience – programs kicked off May 4th at Queen/Saulter.

Also of interest is “Books & Brews”, a book and entertainment club meant for book lovers, book reviewers, literary critics, proofreaders, and others. The cultural and entertainment program is also open for beer, wine, cider, or non-alcoholic drink enthusiasts.

That said, upcoming dates are May 31st, June 28, and July 26, at Saulter Street Brewery,1-31 Saulter Street, between 7-8 pm on these chosen Tuesdays. Culture Arts & Entertainment: Toronto Public Library

Riverside Toronto Saulter Street Brewery

To partake in the event, you can register in person at Queen/Saulter or call 416-393-7723.

 All libraries across the city are integrating new programs, toward serving Torontarians and making the libraries more attractive for all. This includes: stocking new books and materials, hosting educational sessions on the premises, digital access to facilities, digital directories, digital archival artifacts, virtual courses, virtual business start-ups workshops, resume writing & preparing for interview workshops, and wellness & mental health programs. A host of online programs are also of benefit to all library cardholders, free of charge.    

“Education is the first step for people to gain the knowledge, critical thinking, empowerment and skills they need to make this world a better place”. Nelson Mandela.                           

Come one! Come All!!!  

About the Author:

Bisi has been a community content and script writer since 2006, working internationally as a journalist and now locally in Toronto.

Aura Lounge’s Turkish Brunch is Back!

Author: Blogs by Bisi

Aura Lounge is one of the newest spots in Toronto’s Riverside neighborhood. Tucked in at 686 Queen Street East, between the famous Riverside Burgers and the new Ali Baba’s restaurant, Aura offers evening dining and cocktail vibes and their special Turkish Brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 10am-4pm. 

Aura Lounge Riverside Toronto

The two business-oriented brothers, Arda and Andi Akin opened Aura in 2021 when the COVID 19 pandemic engulfed the world and forced all and sundry to stay home, except for the essential workers, which include eatery and other food stores. The duo had turned the disappointment that COVID 19 brought into an opportunity. Arda was studying Marketing and Andi, a business-oriented course when the pandemic emerged, after which they start up their own bar and cocktail lounge in the former space of former longtime Riverside business Aft.

The Turkish brothers chose Riverside due to its sense of community and vibrancy.

Their Turkish Brunch, launched in February 2022, happens every Saturday and Sunday from 10am-4pm, among fresh cocktails like; Scottish Kiss, Elbinya, Maple, Dara, Ali Can dream. Their heated patio and DJ beats have been pulling in customers over the cooler season, and they plan to expand to a front patio as part of CafeTO in spring ‘22.

Aura Lounge also steps up in its cuisine varieties, as well as quality wines to wind down, after the day’s work.

The re-emergence of dine-in is building momentum and promises to grow over the spring and summer to bring back that vibrancy, and make the community bubbling and full of life. Aura is in a great spot, just steps from Queen and Broadview and beside established spots such as The Broadview Hotel, Prohibition Social House, and Eastbound Brewing Co.

The taste of the pudding is in the eating, according to the cliche. Check out Aura’s offerings with a following of their Instagram page, http://www.instagram.com/auraofficial.ca/ among other social media platforms

About the Author: 

Bisi has been a community content and scriptwriter since 2006, working internationally as a journalist and now locally in Toronto.

Riverside BIA: Looking Back on 2021, Looking Ahead to 2022

A message from Riverside BIA Executive Director, Jennifer Lay:

As we turn the page on 2021 we are taking a moment to reflect. YES, it has been ANOTHER YEAR…BUT, this past year has once again reinforced the perseverance, ingenuity, kindness, caring and resilience of everyone in this business community. I’ve appreciated continuing working closely with many of you and getting to know you better and a big welcome to all our new members who joined us this past year.

As we continued to get through this pandemic together in 2021, as we will do in 2022, we the Riverside BIA are here to support, and help this incredible neighbourhood shine, with MANY ‘support local’ campaigns, streetscape programs like weekly graffiti removal services, public art, CafeTO supports, and many innovative offerings. 

Read on for more…

We began 2021 in a darker place and wanted to bring some light to our main street. Thanks to a grant from the City of Toronto’s ArtworxTO program and a collaboration with local artists Jessica Lin, 10+ storefronts were activated with The Serenity Project in Riverside over winter 2021. This amazing exhibit lives on virtually – experience it for yourself!

We continued to commemorate the BIA’s 40th anniversary year over 2021 with the Riverside 40 years, 40 stories series -including intimate stories about what makes this neighbourhood special. From the story of how the BIA began with a small group of dedicated business owners, sitting around a kitchen table at night, to big projects like the Riverside bridge lighting and stories from local business members like George the Barber who has been here longer than the BIA itself. This story telling series is powerful and meaningful. 

In addition we showed some Riverside pride with our popular ‘You are Here’ campaign and Riverside commemorative merchandise – see our collection here 🙂

At the same time we worked together with our Queen Street BIAs to run some incredible promotional campaigns like the #LoveOnQueen and #HolidaysOnQueen giveaways with Queen West BIA, and the Queen East Eats programme to promote outdoor dining with the Leslieville BIA! We are better by working with our friends and neighbours…

We continued to support our business members 1:1 through 2021, just get in touch and we will likely be able to help or direct you!

Advocacy can work and it is really about bringing our concerns, needs and good ideas forward to our elected officials to help inform critical policies and programs. The BIA has been doing this throughout the pandemic and will keep doing this proactively and in response to government announcements. We have done more of this in the past year than ever in our history and will keep it up. It has produced results.

We were proud this year to continue putting a spotlight on our seasoned and new members with the ‘Get to Know Your Locals’ series – enjoy it here 

Riverside BIA continued to work hand in hand with the City of Toronto and nearly 20 of our members to run a successful CafeTO program. The 2021 program included taking part in the CafeTO Live Amplified Music Pilot project – a huge success in our BIA! Once again this would not have been possible without the support of the City, and we look forward to continued partnership in 2022 for this critical economic recovery program for our many local restaurants, bars, and cafes.

We also had the privilege of participating again in the iheART Mainstreet Art Challenge. Thanks to a partnership with Steps Public Art, the Leslieville BIA, local artists, and community supporters Rockport and Percy Ellis Developments, we implemented the ‘Welcome Back to Main Street sidewalk art project which you can still enjoy on the sidewalks and virtually here.

Over 2021, the Riverside BIA collaborated with Toronto-based arts organizations East End ArtsWomen Paint, and Native Women in the Arts and local artists on “Women Paint Riverside: Currents of Change”. The project -originally envisioned as part of the Riverside BIA Streetscape Master Plan – comprises public art murals in the laneway cooridor spanning three city blocks – located north of Queen Street East, south of Thompson Street, east of Carroll Street and west of Grant Street. Thanks to funding support from StreetArt Toronto, as well as community supporters Hullmark and Streetcar Developments, the project was realized over summer 2021 and launched with a community celebration on September 25th, 2021.

Riverside BIA was fortunate to be able to work alongside Streetcar Developments, Councillor Paula Fletcher’s office and local artist Nick Sweetman and a collective of local Toronto artists to animate the Riverside Square construction hoarding with 150+ feet of vibrant murals reflecting Riverside’s diversity and pride – enjoy a quick tour here, then go see it for yourself (just east of Riverside Common Park at 657 Queen E)

We also got busy, thanks to funding from Ontario Reconnects, and many local collaborations  – in the new Riverside Common Park!! The space was officially launched with Councillor Paula Fletcher on October 17th, 2021 and then we hosted a holiday market in December. The space was also lit up for the holiday season, thanks to the City of Toronto Parks team. We have some great ideas for special things in store for 2022! Let us know what you’d like to see happening there.

Riverside BIA took part in the Bag of Toronto initiative twice in 2021: for Mother’s Day and for the Holiday season! This initiative saw over $5000 of locals products purchased from locals Riverside businesses by Toronto residents, while promoting Riverside as a whole and giving back to our local charity of choice – the Ralph Thornton Community Organization. A big thanks to Bag of Toronto and we look forward to future collaborations!

Thanks to a grant from FedDev Ontario and cost-share with the City of Toronto BIA office, Riverside BIA project-planned over 2021 and will be implementing 43 new corten steel tree grates to replace our aging tree pits while improving accessibility and continuing to protect our city trees on Queen Street East. Keep yours eyes peeled for these upgrades!

This year’s Riverside Window Wonderland was a collaboration local artists and businesses, thanks to funding support from Ontario Reconnects! Click to see all the designs and find out who won this year’s contest as top voted window of Riverside and Queen Street East!!

We capped off the year demonstrating a virtual coming together by raising $9,000 for the Rivertowne Breakfast Program through the 10th Annual (2nd virtual) Riverside Antler Breakfast, in commemoration of Founder Chef Scott who we lost in early 2021. THANK YOU to all the sponsors, donors, supporters and organizers and the outpouring of support from the community.