Evergreen co-presents new sculpture in Lower Don Valley as part of Toronto Biennial

New artwork by Maria Thereza Alves explores hidden histories of Toronto’s watersheds – on display in Riverdale Park West until December 1, 2019

TORONTO, ONTARIO (September 21, 2019) – As part of the first-ever Toronto Biennial of Art, Evergreen has co-commissioned a new artwork entitled Phantom Pain by Maria Thereza Alves. The series of steel shapes embedded in the ground trace the former curving path of the Don River before it was straightened in the 1880s, making visible the complicated and often buried histories of Toronto’s watersheds, both natural and built. This newest work, part of Evergreen’s Don River Valley Park Art Program, is until December 1, 2019 in Riverdale Park.

“The relationship to our built and natural environments are issues at the core of Evergreen’s work in the Don Valley and a focus of the inaugural Toronto Biennial of Art,” said Kari Cwynar, Evergreen curator of the Don River Valley Park Art Program. “Alves is an artist who engages deeply with the places she works. Visiting over the past two years, she was struck by Toronto’s fraught history with its waterways, seeing Toronto as a city with its back to the lake and to its rivers. This homage to the original path of the Don River reintroduces a powerful relationship to the river as it once existed in Toronto.”

For this project Alves continues longstanding research on manipulated urban rivers and ecosystems. Phantom Pain looks at Toronto’s buried watershed system, and the ways in which the imposition of the European grid system has altered both the landscape and our relationship to water in the city. In the 1880s, the Don River, the hub of Toronto’s industry, was straightened to speed the flow of its polluted waters as part of the Don Improvement Plan. The end result left the river stagnant and even more prone to flooding.

A key aspect of Alves’ project has been her conversations and walks with the community group, Lost Rivers, who have for decades been collectively mapping and walking the pathways of Toronto’s buried rivers. During the course of the exhibition Evergreen and Toronto Biennial of Art will host a series of public programs with Lost Rivers to further explore the area around the Don River, and the forgotten network of water that runs beneath downtown Toronto.

Phantom Pain is co-commissioned by Evergreen’s Don River Valley Park Art Program and the Toronto Biennial of Art. Co-presented by Evergreen with the City of Toronto and TRCA, the Don River Valley Park Art Program is a series of temporary, site-responsive public art projects sited along the Lower Don River, curated by Kari Cwynar.

Alves also presents a related artwork, titled Garrison Creek, at the Toronto Biennial of Art’s venue at 259 Lakeshore Blvd.

Trail-users can share photos and what a park means to them online through #ArtInTheDon.


Maria Thereza Alves (born in São Paulo; lives in Naples and Berlin) participated in Manifesta in Palermo, the 32nd São Paulo Biennale, the Sharjah Biennale, and Documenta13. She is the recipient of the Vera List Prize for Art and Politics 2016-2018. Alves co-founded the Partido Verde of São Paulo in Brazil. As a member of the International Indian Treaty Council, Alves made an official presentation of human rights abuses of the Indigenous population of Brazil at the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva. She will participate in the upcoming Sydney Biennale.


Alves’ project is presented during the inaugural edition of the Toronto Biennial of Art – a major city-wide exhibition and the first of its kind for Toronto. The Toronto Biennial of Art takes place in multiple venues across Toronto’s waterfront from September 21 to December 1, 2019. This edition of the Biennial is guided by the question, “what does it mean to be in relation?” Tracing this line of inquiry, the Biennial invites artists to examine the waterfront and its many histories, and interrogate our role in a multitude of ecosystems: ecological, social, capitalistic, colonial, among others.

For more information, please visit https://torontobiennial.org/


The Don River Valley Park Art Program, presented by Evergreen in partnership with the City of Toronto and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, is a series of new temporary sculptural installations, murals, billboards and performance, including dance and sound, along the Don River, created specifically for this site by local, Canadian and international artists. The commissioned artworks artworks explore the Don Valley’s ecological, cultural, industrial and Indigenous histories and future histories and the decisions that continue to shape the city’s public space and public art. Each project will have its own timeline, with some lasting many years and others for one day.

The Don River Valley Park, a 200-hectare greenspace spanning Pottery Road to Corktown Common, aims to build connections to and from neighbourhoods, engage Torontonians and visitors in cultural activities and enhance the environment of one of the world’s largest ravine systems.

For more information visit: https://donrivervalleypark.ca/

For media information, please contact:

Renee Tratch | Sr. Manager, PR & Audience Engagement | Evergreen | 416-596-1495 X 273 

Evergreen Brick Works, 550 Bayview Avenue, Suite 300, Toronto, Ontario, M4W 3X8


About Evergreen: Evergreen is dedicated to making cities flourish. Since 1991, the national not-for-profit has been hard at work transforming spaces into great places so that communities can thrive. We believe that by connecting people, natural and built worlds, we can enable Canadians to do great things that will shape our cities for the better. For more information visit www.evergreen.ca