A Canadian humanitarian, activist, and athlete, Terry Fox has finally been honoured in Downtown Toronto in a long-awaited public art installation beside the Toronto Music Garden at 439 Queens Quay West. The project titled “We Are Shaped by the Obstacles We Face” consists of sculpted stone slabs forming a perspective silhouette of Terry Fox during his Marathon of Hope in 1980. 

East perspective of public art installation presenting Terry's silhouette, image by Natalie Koper

Fox’s legacy starts back on March 3rd, 1977 when Terry was faced with the diagnosis of bone cancer at the age of 18. The barrier was only the start of his remarkable journey to raise funds for cancer research and spread awareness by running East to West across Canada.

Discussion about the memorial for Fox culminated in the Summer of 2018, with approval of the public art installation directed to the city’s waterfront. The project was made possible with funding and support of the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), the Legacy Art Project Toronto, the Waterfront BIA, and the Toronto Foundation. Numerous designs were considered with a national call that resulted in 5 shortlisted proposals at the city’s Fort York Visitor Centre. Jon Sasaki’s design was the most well-received, with a Public Art Design Review having taken place in the Fall of 2022. 

The approved design presents an immersive journey through the Music Garden. The artwork displays three granite slabs, forming the foundations of the iconic Terry Fox Marathon of Hope perspective silhouette through its paved pathway. Along with the surrounding green space, the design aims to inspire the challenges we face by pushing beyond and achieving a positive outlook on prevailing through determination. At the end of the pathway, you are greeted with a bronze statue of a young Terry.

Statue of Terry Fox located at the west entrance of the installation, image by Natalie Koper

As Darrell Fox, brother of Terry, said at the dedication, “Yes, I've seen this project for many years, but to be here physically, and to be in that position, and to see Terry's outline, took me back to 1980, which was an incredible feeling."

Toronto-based interdisciplinary artist Jon Sasaki explains “From our earliest discussions, we were interested in highlighting Terry's tenacity and inner strength and finding a way to translate that into the language of landscape architecture.” James Roach of DTAH Landscape Architects added “The central premise of the design is a path, a path that symbolizes a road and Terry's journey through the eastern provinces into Ontario, along the highways and through the rolling terrain.”  

Pictured left to right are James Roach, Jon Sasaki, Craig Jarvis, Mayor Olivia Chow, Councillor Ausma Malik, Jack Winberg, and Darrell Fox, image by Natalie Koper

Mayor Olivia Chow and Deputy Mayor and Councillor Ausma Malik (Spadina-Fort York) were in attendance with notable partners at the City’s unveiling of the artwork. Both recounted the legacy and impact the notable Canadian has had on many lives. Mailk proclaimed, “This artwork brings the memory and legacy of Terry Fox to life in an innovative way for waterfront communities and visitors to experience. This artwork may be stationary, but it causes us to be moved in a powerful way.” 

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