Few Toronto neighbourhoods have grown as quickly as Liberty Village. It wasn't long ago that the land between the Gardiner and King Street to the east of Dufferin was not much more than aging warehouses and parking lots. Then Torontonians got interested in sandblasted brick and in reclaiming disused industrial land for higher purposes, and the lofts, condos, hip office spaces, pubs, clubs, restaurants, and shops have seemed to spring into being. You don't have to look too far to find people who will tell you that it's all too dense and that transport links in the area are strained, but there i's no denying, however, that Liberty Village has become a fun place to live for thousands—mostly in their 20s and 30s—as the neighbourhood's lively scene grows livelier every year.

Split Rock Gap in its Liberty Village context, Toronto, image by Craig WhiteSplit Rock Gap in its Liberty Village context, image by Craig White

Along with all the fun eating and drinking establishments the area now boasts, another humanizing aspect that arrives with each and every newly completed condo is the public art component of the development. The City of Toronto requires that one per cent of the budget of every major new building be put toward the creation of a piece of art to adorn and improve the space it inhabits. It is up to the developers and their art consultants to find artists whose works will flush out some soul in amongst all the glass and concrete.

Perpetual Motion in front of CanAlfa's Liberty on the Park, TorontoPerpetual Motion in front of CanAlfa's Liberty on the Park, image by Craig White

Francisco Gazitua has become a favourite of Toronto developers, with pieces of his now gracing developments by Concord Adex, Cityzen and Fernbrook Homes, and CanAlfa. The Chilean sculptor's Perpetual Motion, a reference to the industrial past of the area and in particular to the Inglis appliance factory which once stood o the site, was one of Liberty Village's first public art pieces. Interrupted by two buildings between them, Perpetual Motion is now joined by Split Rock Gap, a new piece which references time further back than Liberty Village's recent past. Gazitua's own words reveal his inspiration for the new work.

Years ago, while visiting Canada, my dear friend gave me a book of the works of the Group of Seven. Written in his dedication, he wrote that "their paintings still evoke the spirit of the land which is embedded in many Canadian lives." 

One of Georgian Bay's iconic wind-shorn pines, Split Rock Gap model in ChileOne of Georgian Bay's iconic wind-shorn pines • Split Rock Gap model at Francisco Gazitua's studio in Chile

Their works, above all the paintings of Thom Thomson, truly capture the nature of the Canadian landscape. My work, Split Rock Gap, refers to these paintings, and their wind-shorn pines. The trees of the Great Lakes are the resilient sentinels of Canada - they rise through cracks in the hard granite of the precambrian shield. They bend and twist and push against the winter winds. 

Split Rock Gap against the sky, Liberty Village, Toronto, image by Craig WhiteSplit Rock Gap against the sky, image by Craig White

For this sculpture, I chose to create an object that refers to something natural, in stark contrast to my other project in Liberty Village. Perpetual Motion refers to the area's industrial past, whereas this, Split Rock Gap, refers to the geological and natural history of Canada.

Split Rock Gap in front of CanAlfa's Liberty Place, Liberty Village, TorontoSplit Rock Gap in front of CanAlfa's Liberty Place, image by Craig White

Structurally, the work is made from painted stainless steel. The 3-tonne structure extends 11 meters high, grounded at a point which splits the load through a great steel ring, embracing a large granite boulder. The  50cm by 50cm ring also serves as seating, with the boulder at their backs.

Split Rock Gap in its Liberty Village context, Toronto, image by Craig WhiteSplit Rock Gap in its Liberty Village context, image by Craig White

This will be Liberty Village's sentinel pine, growing from the rock, pushing against the winds from Lake Ontario. Split Rock Gap is a symbol for the struggle for life. 

Francisco Gazitua speaks about creating Split Rock Gap, Liberty Village, TorontoFrancisco Gazitua speaks about creating Split Rock Gap, image by Craig White

It is recently that the landscaping was completed around Split Rock Gap, that the fences surrounding it came down, and the area gained a new meeting spot right in its heart. Francisco Gazitua was on hand in May, however, when the sculpture was first installed to dedicate it and tell its story. Along with Gazitua were Karen Mills of Public Art Management who shepherded the work through its creation and installation, the City of Toronto's Jane Perdue who determines that the city is getting significant art for its streets, Councillor Mike Layton in whose ward Liberty Village is situated, and Walter Jensen, Development Manager at CanAlfa whose condominium tower Liberty Place provides the backdrop for Split Rock Gap. Jensen recounted CanAlfa's enjoyable collaboration with Gazitua and his associates which made it all happen.

Walter Jensen, Francisco Gazitua, Mike Layton stand by Split Rock Gap, TorontoWalter Jensen, Francisco Gazitua, and Mike Layton stand by Split Rock Gap, image by Craig White

Want to know more about other public artworks which are enlivening Toronto's streets? Click the public art tag below to get a list of other works we have covered. Want to know more about Liberty Place? Click on our dataBase file, also linked below. Want to talk about it? You can get in on the conversation in our associated Forum threads by following their links, or you can leave a comment in the space provided on this page.