From Yonge Street to Keele Street, 24 original artworks have been installed above the new streetcar shelters as part of Toronto’s St. Clair Avenue West Transit Improvement Project. Six of these installations – a quarter of the entire series – are the work of York University artists.
This massive public art project had four separate calls for entries: two open and two invitational. In developing their proposals, artists were asked to be sensitive to the site, the location of the artwork elevated above grade and the fact that people would be viewing the works while moving past them as well as when they were stationary.
Submissions were categorized based on the media used to create the pieces: digital interlay protected by glass, specialty glass, perforated metal screen and mixed media. All the works share the same dimensions: 30 inches high and a monumental 40 feet long, made up of four 10-foot-long panels.
More than 350 entries were submitted by artists from across the Greater Toronto Area for the two open competitions. Two independent juries, each judging two competitions, selected the winning works.
“The quality of the artworks and their scale and siting are setting a new standard for transit art projects in Toronto,” said Rina Greer, the art consultant who coordinated the project with Catherine Williams for the City of Toronto.
Five York artists have transformed the streetscape with their unique creations.
Spadina Road features the first of two works contributed by Professor Judith Schwarz, chair of the Department of Visual Arts. Her abstract piece Weather Sampler, made of mill-grade stainless steel sheets, is a playful representation of various kinds of weather experienced by Torontonians. Geometric shapes are organized and repeated to represent sunspots, heat rising from the pavement, overcast days, clouds moving overhead, sleet and rain.
|Above: Weather Sampler by Judith Schwarz|
One stop west at Tweedsmuir Avenue, commuters will encounter Professor Yam Lau’s Nearness and Distance – A Chinese Ruler. It’s a digitally printed interlay representing the traditional, but now obsolete, system of measurement that would have been used to build inspirational places like the Forbidden City in Beijing and the Great Wall of China. For Lau, systems of measurement are never simply abstract. They can embody a world that is both poetic and emotional.
|Above: Nearness and Distance – A Chinese Ruler by Yam Lau decorates the Tweedsmuir Avenue stop|
Moon Transit by York visual arts alumna Jeannie Thib (BFA ‘79) is found at Christie Street. The work is constructed of two layers of laminated tempered float glass with pigmented glass enamel accents. It depicts the phases of the moon in an arcing passage through drifting clouds. This upward view was inspired by the escarpment location of St. Clair Avenue, high on a ridge above downtown Toronto. A month of moons unfolds like successive frames of a film or a series of time-lapse photographs. The sequence is integrated into a gestural sky whose graphic conventions are drawn from historical engravings like those depicting early views of Toronto.
|Above: Titled Moon Transit, this artwork can be found at Christie Street. It was created by York visual arts alumna Jeannie Thib|
Schwarz’s second contribution, Origami Remix, is installed at Dufferin Street. It features organic shapes and patterns on a garden theme, rendered in stainless steel. The stylized profiles evoke flowers, petals, stamen, floating pollen and vines. These images expand and recur along a sinuous curve to suggest process and alteration over time. Repeated and remixed at a different scale, the shapes coalesce into designs suggestive of garden ornamentation, decorative fences and patterns that allude to retro linoleum, wallpaper and picnic oilcloth.
|Above: Schwarz’s Origami Remix can be seen at the Dufferin Street|
Caledonia Road is the site of Sidewalk Tango by York alumna Sarah Nind (MFA ’94). Nind’s digitally printed interlayer expresses the richness and cultural diversity of the street life along St. Clair West. The street’s ambience offers a cacophony of colours, odours and tactile experiences: baskets of fruits and vegetables, displays of shoes and clothing, pots overflowing with flowering plants, domestic paraphernalia of hardware and household supplies.
|Above: York alumna Sarah Nind’s Sidewalk Tango|
Art / Work, by photographer Vid Ingelevics (MFA ‘07), marks the stop at Silverthorne Avenue. Inspired by 1920s modernist art photography and film and the then-novel techniques of montage, collage and transitional dissolves, Art / Work draws on the archival record of construction on St. Clair Avenue in the twenties, as found in the Toronto Transit Commission files in the City of Toronto Archives. A long-time local resident, Ingelevics makes this history visible through images of labour and labourers from this earlier period.
|Above: Art/Work by York alumnus, photograper Vid Ingelevics marks the stop at Silverthorne Avenue|
The distance between Yonge Street and Keele Street is just over six kilometres. The public art installations at transit stops are the finishing touches on the dedicated right-of-way streetcar lane for the 512 St. Clair streetcar loop. As a special initiative, the TTC is offering a two-hour time-based transfer for Route 512 that allows passengers to get on and off the streetcar to enjoy the artworks as well as the shops and restaurants along the way.