In the spirit of creativity and innovation, MaRS recently partnered with the Art Gallery of Ontario as part of its #crowningheroes initiative celebrating the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Basquiat’s groundbreaking and provocative artistic approach translated 1980s New York into a radical visual language, one that confronted issues of racism, class struggle, social hypocrisy and black history. Basquiat used recurring motifs to explore issues that he continuously grappled with in his life and art.

Toronto is #crowningheroes. See the Basquiat neon crown at MaRS until April 30, 2015.
See the Basquiat neon crown at MaRS until April 30, 2015. Photo credit: Ian Griffian

The crown was one of these motifs, and a large neon interpretation has been designed and installed in the MaRS atrium. Basquiat applied the crown on a variety of figures including renowned jazz musicians, celebrated athletes and sometimes personal friends. Along with the AGO, we are encouraging people to take to Instagram and crown their personal heroes and share their stories.

Below are a selection of personal narratives shared thus far. Visit @MaRSDiscoveryDistrict on Instagram for more #crowningheroes.

Sameer Vasta / @vasta

At MaRS Data Catalyst, we see the potential for data to help us make better decisions and create change in large systems. My #CrowningHeroes are the people who are able to take these large and complex sets of data and turn them into something understandable and valuable: the people who create the research, insight, services, applications, and solutions that turn data into action.

Always fun to walk into work and find a shining crown hanging up above.

A photo posted by Sameer Vasta (@vasta) on

Idil Burale / via @MaRSDiscoveryDistrict

Innovation is a state of mind. My #CrowningHeroes are those problem solvers who see opportunities where others see challenges, the game changers who dared to be different and paved a new path for themselves, and the hustlers who use what they have to get what they need, in order to see the changes they want in the world.

Jared Walker / @jawalker09

Our communities, large and small, are faced with wicked, wide-ranging problems: Climate change, poverty, sickness, homelessness, hunger, and the list goes on. We also have limited public resources to tackle these issues. At MaRS Centre for Impact Investing, our #CrowningHeroes are the inspiring innovators and entrepreneurs we work with every day. They see the gap between where we are and where we need to be as an opportunity for creativity, not a reason to be disheartened. Together, we’re building a bridge to that better world. 

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Lara Torvi

Lara is Manager, Media Relations for MaRS. Prior to joining MaRS, Lara provided communications and digital strategy to New York City’s Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications and the Ontario Government’s Cabinet Office. See more…