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public art

We are committed to making public art a part of everyday life in our new neighbourhoods.

During the early planning phases, we create a public art strategy and select prominent locations for public artwork in each waterfront district. Our goal is to create a contemporary collection of public art that reflects the neighbourhood’s character and ensures that every artwork is accessible to all residents and visitors. Once complete, each artwork becomes part of the City of Toronto’s Public Art and Monuments Collection.

 

Our permanent public art commissions are funded by pooling developer contributions from across each waterfront district, building on the City of Toronto’s Percent for Public Art model.

 

the public art commissioning process

 

Once a public art master plan is approved and developer contributions have been received, we open up individual public art sites to an artwork selection process. These public art opportunities are open to Canadian and international professional artists at any stage in their career. Proposals are then evaluated through a fair and transparent process. In commissioning new work, we strive to exceed expectations for art in the public realm by creating art work that is thoughtful, context appropriate and that will engage the public over the long term. Once an artist is selected, we work with them to refine, fabricate and install their art work.

 

 

 

permanent art installations

 

LIGHT KEEPER, caitlind r.c. brown, wayne garrett and studio north, 2019
aitken place park


Photo credit: Caitland r.c. Brown


Using Light as a sculptural material, LIGHT KEEPER projects waves of rainbow light and a moon clock that responds to shifting winds in the night sky. Taking its name from the keepers who maintain lighthouses, the installation speaks to light as a medium for sending messages across vast dark spaces, helping vessels find their way and signaling danger or change ahead. Against the bright metropolis of Toronto, it references the disappearance of natural phenomena from urban spaces.  Watch this short video to learn more.

 

garden of future follies, Hadley+Maxwell, 2016
front street east



Garden of Future Follies brings the past to life by fragmenting and rearranging parts of monuments, sculptures and architecture from all over the City of Toronto. Based on the idea of the folly – a fanciful and purely decorative structure popular in 18th and 19th century romantic gardens and landscapes– this project reimagines a ‘garden of follies’ that incorporates elements from monuments normally located high above the street and physically out of reach, and brings them down to street level where they can be celebrated and enjoyed. The work builds a collection of unusual characters that creates a sense of play, inviting us to explore and interact with our city’s history.

 


Tadashi Kawamata's twelve-metre tower contrasts with the orthogonal geometry of buildings and street lines, and the organized public space of the new Front Street in West Don Lands. The sculpture, which invites pedestrians into its centre, is an accumulation of lampposts that appear to hold themselves together like mikado sticks just before they fall.

The lampposts are visible in contrast, casting abstract shadows on the adjacent pavement. At night, the lamps are lit with energy-efficient bulbs, creating a bright internal volume. Selected from lamppost designs used on Toronto's streets, the work has become a landmark beacon for the neighbourhood. 
 


The Water Guardians is an integrated artwork, landscape design and play project. Three towering abstract figures with eyes that illuminate at night suggest a vigilant outward gaze. The spout-like arm of the side figure suggests water cascading into a stylized river made of recycled rubberized play surface, which flows under the archway of the Guardian's legs. The curving shape of the figure on the other side suggests fluid motion, a personification of water. The riverway runs on the same axis as Front Street and is punctuated by green mounds of rubberized play surface. Standard play equipment represents buoys with mobile bases allowing for interactive play.

 


Mark di Suvero is considered one of the most significant sculptors of the 20th century. In 1967, while in the early stages of his career, di Suvero was invited by the City of Toronto to participate in an International Sculpture Symposium in High Park. Di Suvero was given access to a crane and operator and the results were two monumental pieces, Flower Power and No Shoes. These were the first works made in what became the artist’s signature style.

After a lengthy restoration and re-installation coordinated with the City of Toronto and overseen by di Suvero, No Shoes was installed in Corktown Common in June 2013.

 


Site Specific uses this 40-metre long linear site to portray a deep history of human existence in the immediate area, with an expanded focus on the era of Thornton and Lucie Blackburn, whose home was on the site of the adjacent Inglenook Secondary School. The artists worked with historian Karolyn Smart Frost and the students of the school to create the artwork and a related student exhibition. Site Specific makes visual poetry from the human stories that make a place.

 


Mirage, by Toronto-based artist Paul Raff, consists of 57 octagonal mirrored surfaces applied to the underside of the Richmond/Adelaide overpasses. It draws inspiration from the definition of a mirage as an optical illusion by atmospheric conditions. Each of the panels is slightly different in size and spacing, which creates a subtle sense of movement as their polished surfaces bounce light around the space. The artist uses unusual the site conditions of a park under an elevated roadway to blur the horizon lines between earth and sky.

 

light showers, jill anholt, 2011
sherbourne common


Light Showers is a series of sculptures integrated into the water purification system of the park, whose arcs echo the scale of the adjacent Gardiner Expressway. They also give visual and tactile expression to the surrounding community’s aspirations for sustainability and the future. The nine-metre tall towers of concrete and glass carry the collected and purified community stormwater along channels, then lifts it to the sky where it cascades as a textured veil of water and returns to Lake Ontario. In the evening, integrated motion sensors trigger shifting light patterns in the artwork, emphasizing the sustainability connection between personal action and environmental effect.

 

temporary art installations


Beyond Waterfront Toronto’s program for permanent art, temporary art activates public spaces along the water’s edge, and brings people to the shoreline time and again. The rapidly changing landscape of our waterfront creates a backdrop of contrast, transition, and growth for art projects to foster healthy public dialogue on timely issues.
 

SOS (Safety Orange Swimmers), ann hirsch and jeremy angier, 2019
harbour square park 


Photo credit: Nicola Betts


Twenty-five bright orange figures cling to inner tubes on the water in Harbour Square Park. The Safety Orange Swimmers connect Lake Ontario to the seas crossed by all those in search of shelter, freedom and safety, evoking Toronto’s immigrant history. Each figure represents more than one million of the nearly 26 million refugees in the world today. This number continues to rise; three figures have been added to the installation since its 2016 debut. This installation ran from July-September 2019.

 

flight mode, hagop ohannessian and lily jeon, 2019
333 lake shore boulevard east


Photo credit: Remi Carreiro
 

Installed in shipping containers on a transitional space currently used as a parking lot, two multimedia installations provided respite from the interconnected nature of urban living by providing calm sensory spaces that promoted reflection and mindfulness. One engaged viewers in an empathetic exploration of the ocean ecosystem from the sensory perspective of a whale, the other provided a visible interface for movement-based meditation. This partnership between Waterfront Toronto and South Asian Visual Arts Centre was curated by Prachi Khandekar.

 

birth of light, jacquie comrie, 2019
291 lake shore boulevard east


A partnership with the City of Toronto’s StART Support Mural Program, Birth of Light explores the connection between colour and mental wellbeing. Birth of Light was created in collaboration with the East Bayfront community.


programming

 

While our own capital building projects will take years to be fully implemented, cultural events and festivals bring a spotlight to our waterfront and energizes our work along the water’s edge. For this reason, Waterfront Toronto endeavours to bring some of Toronto’s many festivals to our portfolio of sites. We have worked to date with the Toronto Biennial of Art, Nuit Blanche, Open Roof Fesitval, Luminato, StreetArt Toronto, the Winter Stations, and are in discussion with various other potential future partners.

 

Toronto Biennial of Art


The Toronto Biennial of Art is an international contemporary visual arts event that is as culturally connected and diverse as Toronto itself. For 10 weeks every two years, the city is transformed by exhibitions, talks, and performances that reflect the local context while engaging with the world’s most pressing issues of our time. In an effort to make contemporary art available to everyone, the Biennial’s free, citywide programming aims to inspire people, bridge communities, and contribute to global conversations from a variety of perspectives.

 

For their inaugural edition, Waterfront Toronto partnered with the Toronto Biennial of Art to provide the flagship location at 259 Lake Shore Boulevard East.

 

For more information on the Toronto Biennial of Art visit their website here.
 

nuit blanche

On October 3, 2015, the City of Toronto's Nuit Blanche brought thirteen art projects to the waterfront. The Work of the Wind transformed Queen’s Quay, our main waterfront boulevard, into a dynamic night-long exhibition space.

The art projects in the exhibition re-interpreted the Beaufort wind force scale – an empirical measure of wind speed used by mariners since the 19th century – with stunning results that included video projections, ethereal vapours, molten lava, exploding cinder blocks, and rhythmic sound. 


Watch a short video for highlights on Nuit Blanche 2015.

 

summer 2016 programming pilot project

Over the course of summer 2016, Waterfront Toronto produced a program of free arts and cultural events in the West Don Lands and East Bayfront neighbourhoods.  We also provided crucial funding to a pair of mural projects that helped to beautify waterfront parks and trails. Check out this blog post that walks you through some of the highlights of the season. 

 

bringing arts and culture to the waterfront in 2017

In 2017 we launched our call for proposals for summer arts programming. The Animating Our Waterfront grant program awarded up to $10,000 to artists or arts organizations who sought to present arts and cultural programming in waterfront public spaces. We were excited for another summer of dance, music, performance, literary and media arts! Learn more here.

 

learn more 

 

  • Download the West Don Lands Public Art Strategy here.
     
  • Download the East Bayfront Public Art Master Plan here.
     
  • Public art plays an important role in creating the character of a city’s places and spaces – and the cultural, social and economic benefits of public art are real. Read our blog post to learn why public art is essential to building a neighbourhood’s character.
     
  • Watch a short video that walks you through some of our public art projects and highlights how public art has helped transform the West Don Lands.

 

 

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