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How public art is reactivating Toronto this winter

Mar 6, 2018

Winter is a quiet time for Toronto. It’s easy to want to hide indoors and wait for longer, warmer days to enjoy the city.

But our public spaces have an important role to play during winter. They connect people during a time when building connection is so important.

More and more research is being done on the affects of social isolation. Those who are less socially connected tend to deal with more stress and have more health problems, from heart disease to weakened immune systems. Public spaces allow people to feel more involved in their city, from the elderly, to the young and all ages in between. 

Many studies have been conducted on the positive influence art has on our health. Art is shown to result in the opposite effect of social isolation, decreasing stress and strengthening immune systems.

Investing in public spaces is investing in the health of our city and those who live in it. At a time when most are fighting the instinct to hibernate, ensuring our public spaces are welcoming and open becomes even more vital. 

Public art has the ability to transform spaces in the city that are sometimes ignored or forgotten. It encourages people to gather, to connect to one another and simply to be present! These installations are doing just that this winter:

Duane Linklater’s Monsters for Beauty, Permanence and Individuality


⌜ Old Man Winter. And when I first met him in Summer⌟ • • • • • • • ______________________________ #gargoyle #tflers #sculpture #stone #oldman #snow #winter #icy #frozen #nature #woods #naturephotography #hike #cool #tagsforlikes #follow #followme #instalike #igers #instadaily #urbanromantix #instamood

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Duane Linklater’s sculptural installation Monsters for Beauty, Permanence and Individuality has become a favourite of visitors to the Don River Valley Park since it was unveiled in September. It has since transformed with each passing season, the gargoyles changing underneath snow, ice and rain. Time and time again, visitors and commuters stop and spend time around the sculptures.


Duane Linklater's Monsters for Beauty, Permanence and Individuality. ��photocred: @ana__ananas

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“Linklater’s sculptures are replicas of gargoyles and grotesques from prominent buildings in downtown Toronto. The installation, in a field tucked deep in the Don Valley, encourages contemplation about the history of the land and the ways in which Indigenous land has been transformed into the built city," says Kari Cwynar, curator of the Don River Valley Park Art Program. "Over the years the sculptures will weather, like a series of ruins. In the winter, it’s an especially peaceful site.”

Part of the intention around developing an Art Program for the Park was that it would turn a space into a place for Torontonians. We are always thrilled when we see people just relaxing and spending time in the Valley among the gargoyles in any season, but particularly in winter. Whether it be a meeting place for friends or a place to rest your bike, Duane Linklater's sculptures are helping the Lower Don be seen as a destination, not just a passageway.

Winter Stations at Woodbine Beach

Running from Family Day until April 1, Winter Stations is a series of large scale installations that transform lifeguard stations along Woodbine Beach.

The annual exhibit accepts applications from artists and design firms from around the world.

The exhibit brings visitors down to the beach, typically a locale more suited to warmer weather. On any given weekend in winter, crowds visit the beach to see the art, go for a walk and snap some photos.


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Ice Breakers at Toronto's waterfront

A partnership between Winter Stations and the Waterfront BIA, Ice Breakers brought five interactive art installations to Toronto’s waterfront along Queens Quay.

Visitors can climb inside a giant bear or play around in a massive wind chime until March 18.

The interactive quality of the exhibit encourages people to become part of the works themselves and activates the waterfront in a whole new way.


We visited the five installations along Queens Quay in Toronto that make up the 2018 Icebreakers winning public art designs. This one is called "Through the Eyes of the Bear" and is by Tanya Goertzen from Calgary, Alberta. .

We are looking forward to another year of exciting and engaging public art as part of our art program in the Don River Valley Park. We don’t know about you, but we can’t wait to see the way our program, and others around the city – from the stations to the Bentway – continue to activate our public spaces across Toronto year round. 

We love seeing your photos of the art in the Park. Don't forget to tag your photos #ArtintheDon so we can share them!