A year-long public art project takes over all four corners of Toronto as it reawakens from pandemic closures

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Healing Corridor and Playable Road Mural, by Monica Wickeler, Nyle Miigizi Johnston, and The Laneway Project

Healing Corridor and Playable Road Mural, by Monica Wickeler, Nyle Miigizi Johnston, and The Laneway Project

After being hard hit by the pandemic, Toronto is looking to reawaken its cultural programming with a year of public art. “ArtworxTO is massive. It will delight, challenge, and invigorate Toronto’s cultural and economic recovery,” says Sara Diamond, the former Ontario College of Art & Design University president, who is now the co-chair of the mayor’s external Advisory Committee for the programme. “It initiates and illustrates the principles of a new 10-year public art strategy for Toronto that will place public art throughout the city in the spirit of creativity and community building.”

Over the next year, more than 350 new murals, installations, exhibitions, art events, art-inspired dance works, and performances are due to be produced through the project. It will also provide funding to nearly 100 organisations.

“ArtworxTO is an opportunity for residents across the city to learn more about the vibrant and diverse public art in our city and the talented artists who have created it,” said Toronto mayor John Tory during the event’s launch in late September at Cloverdale Common, the Western hub for the city-wide project. The site features HOME(LAND), a multimedia exhibition series curated by Claudia Arana that examines how concepts of land and its different natural elements intersect with the fluid and shifting characteristics of identity, kinship, belonging and home.

The Northern hub in Downsview Park, meanwhile, opened with All City Shine, an exhibition curated by Danilo Deluxo McCallum that showcases Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian and BIPOC artists. It will also host exhibitions by the organisations Jane Street Speaks, North York Arts, Black Speculative Arts Movement and Zahra Siddiqui. The Eastern hub in Scarborough Town Centre is highlighted by Scarborough: The Backbone, a dynamic celebration curated by The Spoken Soul Collective. And the Southern hub at Union Station, which opens in late October, features I Am Land, a three-part exhibition curated by Maya Wilson-Sanchez that explores the role of the artist as a chronicler.

There will also be pop-up shows scattered about the city. Currently up and running are Raji Kaur Aujla’s chashm-e-bulbul at Bayview Village and Taking Space for Self Care in Urban Centres at the Collision Gallery.

There is much more in progress or still to come, including Jordan Bennett’s mural at the Ontario College of Art & Design’s revitalised Butterfield Park, Esmaa Mohamoud’s mural The Brotherhood FUBU (For Us, By Us), and a commentary on the Anthropocene era by John Notten coming to Humber Park East.

“It is so wonderful to get out into the city and experience art again,” Diamond says of the busy slate of programming. “The shows are exquisitely curated, surprisingly intimate, and visually compelling.”

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