How Art Became an Integral Part of Toronto's Landscape

By: Nancy Grenier

How Art Became an Integral Part of Toronto's Landscape

Tags: Art, Art in Toronto, Landscape, Toronto, Beacon Real Estate Team

"Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time” Thomas Merton

Toronto is very well-known for a rich cultural life.  Installations, sculptures and colourful paintings found in parks, airports, buildings and condo developments around the city, contribute to the richness. Tourists and Torontonians get to enjoy these art pieces every day as they walk along the busy Toronto streets. From the 3D Toronto Sign installed at Nathan Philips Square, commissioned for the 2015 Toronto Pan Am /Para Pan American Games, to the notable Red Canoe in the Canoe Landing Park in CityPlace, these art pieces have become a recognizable part of Toronto public life and it’s hard to imagine the city without these unique features. 

Have you ever wondered how art became an integral part of Toronto?
Art climbed the priority list in urban planning with legislation such as the Public Art section in the province’s Planning Act (Section 37 explained), which encourages art inclusion in all major capital projects, even in private developments.  In 1985, Public art principles and guidelines were introduced by the former Metropolitan City of Toronto.  Soon after, the Percent for Public Art Program was implemented, encouraging all land developers to allocate 1% of the project’s gross amount to fund art projects in exchange for increased development rights.  This program and the cooperation of developers across the city has contributed to the enrichment of the city’s landscape and in my opinion a big success.  
Art feeds the soul and adds interest and benefits the city, and luckily Toronto city officials recognize the importance of such endeavours so we can expect to see more of it in future Toronto land developments with the 1% allocation legislation in place.

Next time you’re walking, or driving around the city, I encourage you to take a moment and notice these impressive art pieces. You’ll see why this program has had a positive impact on cultural life in the city.   
Click here for a handy map to some of the public art funded by this wonderful program.
My Take
Beauty is subjective, and some of the sculptures and installations may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but undeniably, each of the artistic features contributes to the vibrant identity of Toronto. I appreciate them all but here is a list of some of my favourites.

  1. Canoe Landing Park in CityPlace
    Renowned Canadian artist, Douglas Coupland, gave the Park an entirely new character with his art pieces: colourful fishing bobbers, iceberg benches, a sculptural beaver dam, programmed tree lighting, and the epic Red Canoe where you can stand in and observe and take in the surroundings.
  2. Elevated Wetlands at Don Valley
    Not only visually appealing and a must-see since 1997, the Elevated Wetlands by Noel Harding at Don Valley function as an eco-system filtering water from the Don and returning it to the river. Next time you’re driving north on the DVP, near Don Mills, keep an eye out for these large grey shapes.
  3. Untitled Mountain at Simcoe Park in Downtown Toronto
    British artist Anish Kapoor certainly gave the Park a trademark with her recognizable unique aluminium sculpture known as the Untitled Mountain. Surrounded by tall trees and lots of green, it contrasts it's surrounding and captures the attention of visitors with its beauty and glory.
  4. Tilted Spheres at Toronto Pearson International Airport
    American artist Richard Serra is known for super-large installations. Staying true to his style, he created the masterpiece known as Tilted Spheres. 39 ft long and 14 ft high, the sculpture is certainly the first thing passengers notice when they stop at the airport. The massive walk-through construction is famous for creating its own echo.
  5. Inversion at Tridel’s James Cooper Mansion Condo
    To show our interaction with nature in an urban setting, artist Eldon Garnet let himself get inspired by the wilderness when creating glorious sculptures of wild animals on stainless steel platforms and walking by the James Cooper Mansion, you can truly enjoy a sight of the wild with a deer, wolves and foxes at the display
  6. Mindshadows at the Republic Condos
    Another beautiful sculpture worth a double look is Mindshadows made of aluminium stainless steel, created by talented Catherine Widgery. Featuring words that represent building blocks for thoughts and being 70% open space, the sculpture symbolizes an open mind.


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