Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Love Lettering Project: Spreading the Love in Toronto

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A love letter to city hall

By Michelle Medford

“In February, Toronto can be a little dire, a little grey, not so lovely at times,” says author Lindsay Zier-Vogel. “I kind of needed to remember what I loved about the city.” So she sent out a call to people, asking them what they loved about Toronto. Her inbox flooded with responses. “It totally changed my February,” she says, and thus began the Toronto-themed chapter of The Love Lettering Project.

The project spontaneously began seven years ago in July when Zier-Vogel and a friend took love poems they’d written and turned them into one-of-a-kind art projects, using colourful paper, various clippings and creative details. In the afternoon, they scattered the letters throughout the city. The first one they left was in a pile of flowers in Trinity Bellwoods Park. The others would be tucked under windshield wipers, hidden in phone booths, in bins of cherries at markets and numerous other places.

“There really wasn’t any thought the first year we did it,” she says. The following year, Zier-Vogel began to recognize the project as something more. Alone this time, she was a grad student spending countless hours studying when she thought, “How lovely would it be to receive something in a book when you’re working in a library for millions of hours?” So she took the project up again. “I asked some of my very favourite people to send me the titles of books they thought needed a love letter,” she wrote on her website and went to writing love poetry to books at Robarts at the University of Toronto and tucking them inside. The project continued every year from then on, both in Toronto and away.

This year, Zier-Vogel took inspiration from the emails she received about what people loved about the city and on June 10, began working on 500 one-of-a-kind pieces featuring love poems to Toronto. She then began spreading the letters out throughout the city. “It’s one of the best feelings, which is why I keep coming back to the project,” she says about leaving anonymous pieces of art around Toronto.

She describes passing a convertible of which the top had been left down. “I threw one inside through the open top and it was so much fun. It was like this crazy little rush,” she says. The rest of the letters she placed on streetcar seats, on park benches, buried in the sand on the beach and countless other nooks throughout the city.

But when asked if she ever waits to see if someone will stumble across one of her letters, she replies, “Never! I’m so not interested in that. It would make me so nervous. I like not knowing how people react. I just want it to exist unto itself.” However, one of the best feelings of the project, she says, is hearing stories from those who have found her letters and how it affected their days. “It’s been so fulfilling.”

This year, Zier-Vogel returned to Trinity Bellwoods Park and left a tree strung with several love letters. She returned one day after work to find that all but one envelope had been taken down. The one remaining envelope had been opened and inside were charming response letters to her. She loved it. “So I’m from Halifax, I came here yesterday,” one began. “You are beautiful. Wanted and loved. Come to the east. The ocean and the grass. Okay?”

As for next year’s theme, Zier-Vogel isn’t sure what it will be yet, but in the meantime, she’s working with children at the AGO and Toronto Public Library branches to get people writing their own poems and helping spread the love.

Michelle Medford is a journalism grad and intern at Open Book for the summer of 2011. She has written for TV Guide Canada, Glow magazine and other online publications. She’s also an avid blogger and film reviewer at Cinefilles.

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