A new piece of public art has been unveiled at the corner of Weston Road and Dennis Avenue in Toronto's Mount Dennis area. The artwork, titled Nyctophilia for ‘love of the night’, consists of ten utility poles with 36 attached street lights jutting out in different directions. Community members joined Ward 11 (York South-Weston) Councillor Frances Nunziata on Wednesday in officially marking the launch of the work. The piece was designed by Toronto artists Daniel Young, who was also in attendance, and Christian Giroux.
The Mount Dennis neighbourhood quickly became one of Toronto’s industrial hubs in the 19th century, with dozens of factories and businesses calling the area home. Over time, many of the industries have left the area, including the landmark Kodak factory that closed in 2005. With many jobs lost and crime becoming a concern, the neighbourhood was identified as being in particular need of revitalization.
In 2010, after extensive community consultation, it was determined that the ‘gateway’ to Mount Dennis needed to be enhanced with a public art project. The project would not only attract attention to the neighbourhood, but would also define the spot as a focal point. A local real estate development generated $193,000 in Section 37 funding to be used on the project, with the remaining funds being covered by City of Toronto Cultural Services. A jury consisting of two community members and three visual art professionals selected this proposal from a list of submissions in 2011.
The $250,000 project was designed to capture the area’s industrial heritage while also providing a colourful cascade of light. LED lights installed in the lamps change colours at night, with the ability to adjust them in accordance with special occasions such as Christmas and New Year’s. “By using standard lighting elements and configuring them in a highly unconventional way, we seek to awaken the imagination of area residents and create a work with a striking physical presence that serves, at least partially, to transform the intersection,” said Young and Giroux.
The lights are not as strong as regular street lamps and have been fitted with shielding to reduce glare for nearby homes and businesses. The lights will not be left on throughout the night, easing some concerns residents had regarding light pollution. Though there were also musings by some community members in attendance about the cost of lighting the fixtures, the price tag is a paltry $20 per month. The majority of residents in attendance expressed their support for the project, adding that although it may not please some people, it is becoming a conversation piece throughout the community. "Their work brings to life what used to be an unutilized space in Mount Dennis," said Councillor Nunziata. "It has taken several years for this project to come to fruition, and I am pleased to see it has been largely well received by the local community."
Work is not completely finished yet, as a bench that was removed from the site will be replaced with additional seating in the near future. But the piece is already turning heads and has quickly become a talking point amongst community members and visitors alike.
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