Wednesday, July 17, 2013

City-Shaping Art

One of the many professions I imagine that I would have loved is that of City Planner. Cities evolve via such interesting and dis-similar routes, responding to factors that enliven, and to others that deaden, and to forces both intentional and unforeseen. I think I'd have enjoyed creating public spaces, contemplating traffic flows, and debating zoning restrictions, all in the context of helping to determine how an urban space develops.

As a writer, it's not uncommon to have a reader take from my words substance that I had no intention to impart (and I know this is an experience shared by creators in all media). How fascinating it is, when that reader perceives a motive in character that I was unaware of, or catches a symbolic thread I did not consciously weave.

How much more fascinating it must be when a city street or park or neighborhood takes on a character, draws in or radiates a kind of social energy, that its designers did not foresee - could not have foreseen!?

A tiny and an historic example of what I mean:
- How is it that the parking lot at Lakeshore and Leslie in Toronto fills up with motorcycles every Friday night, instead of some other?
- How did Harlem, formerly the domain of the Dutch upper class, become the center of New York City's Black Community, when the Black population had originally been centered in lower midtown?
And maybe one more:
- How did San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury become Haight-Ashbury?

But I've strayed from my original topic, which is the Art that springs up around a city, and how it flavors the city and the community. I won't theorize about it - not now, anyway. Except to say that I think that Art is one of those unanticipated intangibles that comes along and actually shapes and guides a place. And I'll say that the particular public art of a city is special to me.

That said, here is some of the public art of Toronto that I love.

Most of it comes in the form of Wall Paintings, and a lot of that is to be found in the midst of all the Graffiti in alleyways just south of Queen Street West.
This next piece makes over the entire side of a building as an underwater world of fish.
A couple of my favorites are larger scale and apparently commissioned pieces.
The first is on Dundas East, just west of Carlaw.
This next is on McCaul Street, just south of the Ontario College of Art & Design.

On the other end of the spectrum, in terms of scale, are the dozens of utility boxes that artists have decorated. Many of them are amateurish, but the quality of this one is pretty high.
 But there's also art that is in media other than painting. For example, I like this chair perched in a tree, to be found in Grange Park, more than I can explain.
And finally, there's this unique installation of yarn works that adorn the fence around Jones Avenue Park in Leslieville.


  1. awesome! reminds me of a tupac poem: roses growing through cracks in the concrete

  2. awesome! reminds me of a tupac poem: roses growing through cracks in the concrete