Residents and business owners on St. Clair Avenue West have endured an extensive and controversial Transit Improvement Project designed to improve streetcar service in the area. Now, instead of having to tolerate the lengthy construction work and the disgruntled faces of some motorists, residents and business owners can breathe a little easier and appreciate new art installations that have sprouted above all twenty-four station stops.
Rina Greer is a public art consultant who collaborated with the TTC to oversee four different competitions for artwork installations above each of the station stops on the 512 St. Clair, from Gunn’s Loop to Yonge Street. Two of these competitions relied on an open-call for artists, while the other two were invitational, yet still subject to the selection process. In the end, over 350 entries were whittled down to twenty-four, with twenty-one artists being responsible for the selected pieces. One of the main goals of the project according to Rina Greer was to create pieces that were “both timeless and elegant.”
Each of the art installations is unique in subject and the materials used. Two juries composed of community members and artists had the difficult job of selecting artworks in four categories: two glass competitions were judged by one jury, while another jury chose works produced with metal screens and other multi-media. The final result produced nine glass panels with digital interlay transparencies, five glass panels with specialized techniques, five metal screens, and five multi-media plates. There is a common element between the pieces though; each of the four panels measures ten feet to cover the entire forty foot length of the shelters.
The plans for public art along the streetcar route are traced back to 2004, when designers Brook McIlroy Inc. constructed their vision for the streetscape of St. Clair. The installation of the art was complete late last year adding much appreciated colour to an otherwise bleak winter landscape.
Although the entries were not required to reflect any historical or cultural significance to its location, panels are being installed at each of the station stops which allow the reader to dive into the past of Greater Toronto – certainly a useful way of communicating our history with tourists.
Those concerned about the budget of the project have little to worry about, as the project adhered to the TTC’s policy which sets aside one percent of the cost of major transit projects for public art purposes, similar to the policy for new-builds.
St. Clair is already a street well-known for its restaurants, delis, and bakeries, but for streetcar riders who thought nothing more of station stops as a place to get on and get off, they will have the chance to experience a moving art gallery along a classic Toronto avenue. This will be the first of a five-day series covering all twenty-four station stops. We invite you to pick your favourites!
We begin at Yonge Street and head towards the western terminus at Gunn’s Loop.
The first piece at Yonge and St. Clair is entitled Meadow by Peter Bowyer. It was one of the five winners in the multi-media category, the most boundless group of the four. Panels at the stations include a short blurb about each artwork, which for this piece, yielded: "a moment of floral expansiveness for a busy street.” Or perhaps a giant floral cookie-cutter?
One of the nine winners in the glass transparency category lies above Deer Park station. The glass contains sculptural objects which were printed on Japanese paper, giving way to its name Constructions by Cybele Young. It is one of the more colourful stops on the route.
At Avenue Road is an interesting work aptly named Scenic Route by Carlo Cesta. Sprouting up from the streetcar shelter, the metallic vines wrap along the length of the roof, meant to display movement in opposite directions. The multi-media categories allow for more creativity and outside-the-box thinking.
One of the most eye-catching artworks at all the stops is Panya Clark Espinal’s, Meeting at Dunvegan. The first of the pieces covered in the metal screens group, the artist is no stranger to the TTC. You may have seen Espinal's works at Bayview Station, created in the trompe-l'œil (optical illusion) style. The historical panels cover places of worship in the area and in Toronto, which is no coincidence given Timothy Eaton Memorial Church lies just north of the stop.
Our last stop today is Russell Hill, another piece in the glass transparency set. Entitled How to Observe a Painting… by Kristen Peterson, the work critiques art, showing how pictorial techniques can alter how one views the world. At the very least, the art could change how a person views the TTC.
Should you find yourself along St. Clair, take the time for a closer look at these art pieces. Until then, come back tomorrow to view the next in this series, which will conclude on Friday.
In the meantime, you can visit the St. Clair ROW thread in the Transportation & Infrastructure section of the forum to learn more.
What do you think about the permanent art installations along the St. Clair 512 Streetcar Route? Leave a comment below and enjoy the rest of the series.